Plot[ edit ] The story begins with the unnamed narrator arriving at the house of his friend, Roderick Usher, having received a letter from him in a distant part of the country complaining of an illness and asking for his help. As he arrives, the narrator notes a thin crack extending from the roof, down the front of the building and into the adjacent lake. Although Poe wrote this short story before the invention of modern psychological science, Roderick's condition can be described according to its terminology. It includes a form of sensory overload known as hyperesthesia hypersensitivity to textures, light, sounds, smells and tasteshypochondria an excessive preoccupation or worry about having a serious illness and acute anxiety.
A tale of sickness, madness, incest, and the danger of unrestrained creativity, this is among Poe's most popular and critically-examined horror stories. The ancient, decaying House of Usher, filled with tattered furniture and tapestries and set in a gloomy, desolate locale is a rich symbolic representation of its sickly twin inhabitants, Roderick and Madeline Usher.
Besides its use of classical Gothic imagery and gruesome events—including escape from live burial—the story has a psychological element and ambiguous symbolism that have given rise to many critical readings.
This overwhelming sense of gloom continues as the narrator is brought through the dark house, past its ancient and shabby furnishings, to his host. Overcome by the change in his friend's appearance, the narrator is struck by the singular, cadaverous, ghastly appearance of Roderick Usher.
As a result, Roderick claims to have a heightened sensory acuteness, with the blandest food, the slightest touch, and the faintest sounds causing him great pain.
The narrator, who was aware of the Usher family's peculiar creativity, also knew of the weakness of the family bloodline. The ancient but inbred family had resided in the House of Usher for so long that for many of their neighbors, the house and the family had become one in the same.
During the course of this discussion, the narrator learns that Roderick has a twin sister. Also suffering from a more debilitating form of the undiagnosed and incurable illness, Madeline Usher is Roderick's only living relation. She makes a fleeting appearance, but says nothing to the narrator or her brother, and passes ghost-like on to another part of the house.
Roderick explains that his sister is far too ill for the narrator to see her, and will likely never leave her bed alive again. Disturbed by this finding, the narrator sets out to cheer his old friend.
In addition to reading aloud and conversing, the narrator attempts to raise Roderick's spirits by listening to his extemporaneous musical compositions, and discussing Roderick's abstract painting.
The two spend a great deal of time together in these creative pursuits, but after her first, brief appearance, Madeline is not seen again. Several days later, Roderick's prediction about his sister's demise comes to pass, and he asks the narrator to help him entomb Madeline in a vault deep beneath the house.
Roderick wanted to preserve her corpse for a fortnight before its final interment. The narrator was struck by this strange decision, but nevertheless helped his friend bring Madeline's body to a copper-lined vault—formerly a dungeon in ancient times—where it was placed in a coffin and closed behind a large iron door.
Almost immediately, Roderick's disposition changed; he became restless, even more pale, and was racked with terror. This senseless fear was contagious and the narrator was also overcome by a dreadful terror. About a week after Madeline's body was placed in its vault, on a particularly wild and stormy night, both the narrator and Roderick were overcome by their disquieted senses, and unable to sleep.
The narrator read aloud from an old romance to ease their spirits. In several uncanny coincidences, just as a particular action was read, a similar noise was heard from the depths of the ancient house.
At last, unsettled by the noises, Roderick, in a fit of agitation and distress, proclaims that for several days he'd heard his undead sister's struggle as she tried to free herself from her tomb.
He feared that she would come after him to exact revenge for her premature burial. Just as he proclaims that she is at that moment standing outside their door, the storm blows the door open. There stands Madeline, covered in her own blood, and battered from her struggle out of the vault.
She falls forward into her twin brother's arms. Roderick dies immediately from the horror and shock of the sight. The narrator flees from the horrific scene, and runs from the house. Behind him the crumbling house cracks down the center, collapses, and is swallowed up by the tarn that spread before it.
As is typical of the gothic genre, the story is set in a dark, medieval castle, and uses a first-person narrator to instill a sense of dread and terror in the reader.
The descriptions of the Usher family home and of Roderick and Madeline create an atmosphere of evil and dread that permeates the narrative from the very beginning. Many interpretations of the story have explained the evil behind the curse Roderick speaks of as the result of a long history of incest and inbreeding in the Usher family.
According to this interpretation, the brother and sister are suffering the physical and emotional consequences of the guilt associated with such universally condemned behavior. Yet others see the evil and sense of foreboding in the story as something of a purely supernatural nature; this version characterizes Roderick's behavior as a natural response to the otherworldly forces that are haunting his home.
Roderick speaks several times about the mysterious maladies from which he and his sister suffer. Madeline's illness—a condition that causes extreme muscle rigidity and periods of unconsciousness—is quite possibly misunderstood or even purposely construed as death by her mentally unstable brother, whose irrationality directs the story.
In contrast, Poe's stated intent in writing this and several other tales was to create powerful emotional responses in his fiction through the use of language.
Several of his stories depicted psychologically unstable characters and were very different from the typical writing of the time. Poe was often dismissed by contemporary literary critics both because of the unusual content of his stories, and because the short story genre he employed was not yet regarded as serious literature.Edgar Allen Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher activities & lesson plans include vocabulary, character analysis, plot diagram, and theme.
A summary of “The Fall of the House of Usher” () in Edgar Allan Poe's Poe’s Short Stories. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of Poe’s Short Stories and what it means.
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The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allan Poe, renowned as the foremost master of the short-story form of writing, chiefly tales of the mysterious and macabre, has established his short stories as leading proponents of “Gothic” literature. OF THE HOUSE OF USHER BY EDGAR ALLAN POE Short Story: “The Fall of the House of Usher” Author: Edgar Allan Poe, –49 First published: The original short story is in the public domain in the The Fall of the House of Usher Edgar Allan Poe. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allan Poe, renowned as the foremost master of the short-story form of writing, chiefly tales of the mysterious and macabre, has established his short stories as leading proponents of “Gothic” literature.
The Fall of the House of Usher is a mosaic of incidents, psychological attitudes, and symbols all cemented into place in a unified structure according to the prescription of an exacting and skillful art, that is Edgar Allan Poe.(Neilson, ). There are more varying interpretations of this story than there are of almost any of Poe's other works.
For some of the widely differing interpretations, the reader should consult the volume Twentieth-Century Interpretations of Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher." One key to the story is, of course, the name of the main character.
The Fall of the House of Usher Edgar Allan Poe The following entry presents criticism of Poe's short story “The Fall of the House of Usher” (). See also, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym Criticism. The Fall of the House of Usher study guide contains a biography of Edgar Allan Poe, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
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