Friday, June 3, 2011

The Fall of the House of Usher

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The Fall of the House of Usher

“The Fall of the House of Usher”, by Edgar Allen Poe, is a compelling story that is defiantly worth having on the reading in high schools today. The first time through the talk of Roderick Usher may seem a little difficult to understand but after a couple times the reader can begin to comprehend the deep psychological messages within the text. Throughout the story, Poe uses three very common but affective literary elements to carry out his horror theme, and make reading it worthwhile.

The most important part to any story or novel is the description. Description, with vivid words, is used to create a particular mood or atmosphere. Poe begins his story with a very clear visual image of the gloomy House of Usher

During the whole of a dull, cark, and soundless day

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In the autumn of the year, when clouds had hung

Oppressively low in the heaven, I had been passing

Alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary

tract of country…as shades of evening drew on,

within view of the melancholy house of Usher. (pg. 64)

In reading the first paragraph the reader is immediately left with a sense of horror and suspense. Continuing on, Poe gives a glimpse on what life was really like inside the house. He describes the room in which Roderick Usher is found; “The windows were long, narrow, and pointed at so vast a distance from the black oaken floor as to be altogether in-accessible from within…An air of stern deep and irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded all”(pg. 67). Without Poe’s ability to vividly describe the situation and setting in which the characters find themselves, too much strain would be put on the readers to create this in their own mind.

Characterization is the second important element used to create the mystery in the house. The sense of confusion that surrounds Roderick keeps the reader involved. Is he just a crazy man who is deeply saddened about his sister’s illness or is it something psychological? Perhaps it was a bi-polar disorder or maybe he suffered from schizophrenia. Although Poe never directly comes out and tells what is wrong, the reader can put together symptoms described by the narrator. The following excerpt can lead the reader to believe that Roderick Usher is conceivably a manic-depressive

His action was alternately vivacious and sudden. His voice

varied rapidly from a tremulous indecision…to that species

of energetic conclusion…his peculiar gloom…could be traced

to more natural origin-the dissolution of his sister. (pg. 68)

Throughout the story he varies from sad and depressed to lively and happy. This leaves the reader constantly on their toes trying to identify his character.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the short story is it’s double meaning, or allegory. “The Fall of the House of Usher” can be taken two ways; the literal, physical collapse of the house, and the symbolic deterioration of Roderick’s mind. In a way the house is the embodiment of Roderick. Every detail and explanation must have been well thought out before writing to allow fro the symbolisms to show through. For example, in the first few paragraph’s the narrator describes a crack running down the outside of the complex. While this describes the obvious physical fact that there is a crack in the house it would also be interrupted for the fundamental split in the twin personalities of Roderick and Madeline.

Although today “The Fall of the House of Usher” is recognized as a great literary piece, at the time of it’s publishing, was not given the same praise. It truly was ahead of its time. Back then the story of the inner works of the human mind and dangers within was too much for the audience to handle. In today’s society, with all of the horror movies and reality TV, it is easier to understand what Poes message was. By modern standards, “The Fall of the House of Usher” is a true masterpiece in the horror genre.

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