The Fall of the House of Usher By Edgar Allan Poe

Symbolic Elements in The Fall of the House of Usher By Edgar Allan Poe

Summary

The narrator goes to the House of Usher. It is unkempt with cracks, decays in various places and has an evil atmosphere. His friend Roderick, who is both physically and emotionally sick, sent him a letter requesting his company and assistance. The narrator finds the inside of the house as creepy as the outside. He notes that Roderick is less energetic and looks pale unlike before (Poe 2010). Roderick explains that he suffers from “a family evil” but dismisses it. He alleges to have a heightened sensory acuteness which is causing him to be in great pain. Later on, the narrator finds out that Madeline is in fact Roderick’s twin sister. Madeline has a mysterious sickness that is not treatable. The narrator tries to cheer Roderick up to no avail. He learns that Roderick himself is afraid of his own house (Douglas 2005).

When Madeline dies, Roderick decides to bury her temporarily in the tombs just below the house. With the events that follow, the narrator is unable to sleep because of Roderick’s uneasiness. The narrator reads “Mad Trist” by Sir Lancelot Canning, a medieval romance that assures that Roderick will help him through the night. In the middle of him reading, he hears sounds (Kerry Vermillion and Quinn McCumber 2000). He first thinks that it is his imagination, but they later become so distinct and cannot be ignored. He notices that Roderick is muttering to himself saying that he has been hearing the sounds for quite a long time and believes that Madeline is trying to escape since they buried her alive. As the wind blows the door open, they see Madeline standing in a white robe. Roderick is so terrified that he dies. The narrator gets a chance to flee and as he does that, the entire house crumbles to the ground (Gale 2001).

Symbolism

Death

This is defined as a permanent termination. This book falls into the Gothic category. We see that each and every character in this book is linked to death. Physically, the House of Usher symbolizes death. Descriptions such as “eye-like windows” and “minute fungi…hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves,” among others are used.

The Small Fissure

Upon his arrival, the narrator notices cracks in the House of Usher, which refers both to family and the building. The small fissure represents the disruption in the togetherness of the family specifically between Roderick and his sister Madeline. This disruption tears the family and the house to pieces.

The Name ‘Usher’

An usher refers to a doorman or doorkeeper. With this in mind, Roderick Usher opens the door to a scary, eerie world for the narrator to be in.

Poe’s style of telling the story is quite unique. There are themes, motifs and symbolism which are significant (Poe 2010).

Reference
1. Gale Cengage, (2001). Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism.
2. Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Fall of the House of Usher” (illustrated by Alastair ed.). McLean Books. Retrieved 6 April 2010. The Fall of the House of Usher.
3. Edgar Allan Poe. (28 Oct. 2005). Biographical Contexts for “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Douglas Scharf.
4. Beyond Empiricism and Transcendentalism (2000). Historical Contexts for “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Kerry Vermillion and Quinn McCumber.

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