In his short story “The Fall of the House of Usher
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In his short story “The Fall of the House of Usher”, Edgar Allen Poe presents his reader with an intricately suspenseful plot filled with a foreboding sense of destruction. Poe uses several literary devices, among the most prevalent, however are his morbid imagery and eerie parallelism. Hidden in the malady of the main character are several different themes, which are all slightly connected yet inherently different.
Poe begins the story by placing the narrator in front of the decrepit, decaying mansion of Roderick Usher. Usher summoned his childhood friend, the narrator, to his home by sending a letter detailing only a minor illness. After the narrator arrives and sees the condition of the house he becomes increasingly superstitious. When the narrator first sees his host he describes his morbid appearance and it arouses his superstition even more. Over a period of time the narrator begins to understand his friends’ infliction, insanity. He tries in vane to comfort his friend and provide solace, however to no avail. When Roderick’s only remaining kin, his sister Madeline dies, Rodericks insanity seems to have gone to a heightened level. Shortly after his sister’s death, Roderick’s friend is reading him a story. As things happen in the story, simultaneously the same description of the noises come from within the house. As Usher tries to persuade the narrator that it is his sister coming for him, and his friend believing Roderick has gone stark raving mad, Madeline comes bursting in through the door and kills her brother. The narrator flees from the house, and no sooner does he get away than he turns around and sees a fissure in the houses masonry envelop the house and then watch the ground swallow up the remains.
In “The Fall of the House of Usher” Poe introduces the reader to three characters; Lady Madeline, Roderick Usher, and the narrator, whose name is never given. Lady Madelin, the twin sister of Roderick Usher, does not speak one word throughout the story. In fact she is absent from most of the story, and she and the narrator do not stay together in the same room. After the narrators arrival she takes to her bed and falls into a catatonic state. He helps to bury her and put her away in a vault, but when she reappears he flees. Before she was buried she roamed around the house quietly not noticing anything, completely overcome by her mental disorder.
Roderick Usher appears to be an educated man. He comes from a wealthy family and owns a huge library. According to the narrator, he had once been an attractive man and “the character of his face had been at all times remarkable” (Poe, 126). However , his appearance had deteriorated over time. Roderick’s altered appearance probably was caused by his insanity. The narrator notes various symptoms of insanity from Roderick’s behavior. Roderick’s state worsens throughout the story as he becomes increasingly restless and unstable, especially after the burial of his sister. He find himself unable to sleep and also finds that he hears noises. All in all he is a severely unbalanced man trying to maintain an equilibrium in his life.
In contrast to Roderick, the narrator appears to be a man of common sense. He seems to have a good heart in that he comes to help a friend from his childhood. He, like, Roderick also appears to be very educated and very analytical. In his observations of Usher he concludes that his friend suffers from an acute mental disorder. He looks for natural explanations for the odd things that Roderick senses. Criticizing Usher for his outrageous fantasies, the narrator claims that Roderick is “enchained by certain superstitious impressions, in regard to the dwelling which he tenanted”(Poe,125). The narrator’s tone suggests that he cannot understand Usher. However he himself is superstitious.
The three characters are unique people with different characteristics, but they all eventually suffer from the same mental disorder. All of them suffer from insanity, yet each responds differently. Madeline seems to accept the fact that she is insane and continues through life with that knowledge. Roderick seems to realize his mental state and makes every effort to hold on his sanity. And the narrator who is slowly but surely
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