The Fall of the House of Usher Edgar Allan Poe wrote, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, using characterization, and imagery to depict fear, terror, and darkness on the human mind. Roderick and his twin sister, Madeline, are the last of the all time-honored House of Usher (Jacobs and Roberts, pg. 462). They are both suffering from rather strange illnesses, which may be attributed to the intermarriage of the family. Roderick suffers from “a morbid acuteness of the senses”( Jacobs and Roberts, pg.
464), while Madelines illness is characterized by ” a settled apathy, a gradual wasting away of the person, and frequent all though transient affections of a partly cataleptical character”(Jacobs and Roberts, pg. 465) which caused her to lose consciousness and feeling. The body would then assume a deathlike rigidity. Roderick believes the house is controlling his condition. He calls on the narrator, a boyhood friend, in a last ditch effort to cheer his life up by giving him someone to communicate with. The narrator arrives to a house of gloom and darkness with decaying furniture.
He immediately is afraid for his life and wonders how his friend can live in a house of such darkness. Several days pass and it is filled with art discussions, guitar playing, and literature reading, all trying to keep Rodericks mind busy (Jacobs and Roberts, pg. 465). The narrator and Roderick prematurely unconfined Madeline in a vault in hopes to alleviate his metal condition. She is either dead, in a coma, or a vampire; Poe allows the reader to make his own assumption. She is possibly a vampire because they bolt down the coffin hoping she will not escape. As some days pass his mental condition worsens possibly related to the fear and terror of the noises coming from the vault.
The narrator is unaware if the noises are coming from the coffin, but he believes they are all throughout the house. As they are reading literature in the study, there is a loud knock at the door, it is Madeline at the door, embodied in blood from scratching her way out of the coffin. The narrator realizes they buried her alive and looks to Roderick for answers. Roderick, terrified, is unable to look at Madeline, realizing that death has come for him. Madeline proceeds to walk towards Roderick and falls on him, the reader assumes that she begins to eat him but the narrator flees in fear of death. “A gust of wind blew the doors, and there did stand the enshrouded figure of the lady Madeline..There was blood upon her white robes, and the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her emaciated frame.
For a moment she remained trembling and reeling to and fro upon the threshold, then with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon..her brother, and in her violent and now final death agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse..” “Suddenly the wrath of the storm increased, and the mansion began to shake and crumble. The friend frantically fled from the chamber and from out of that mansion. Only once did he turn to glance back, when his attention was arrested by a wild light..”The radiance was that of the full setting..blood red moon, which now show vividly through that once barely discernible fissure..” ” There was a loud explosion, and the walls of the mansion came crashing down. Deep and dank tarn. closed sullenly and silently of over the fragments of the House of Usher.
Poe introduces three characters: Lady Madeline, Roderick Usher, and the narrator, whose name is never give. Lady Madeline, 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. At the narrators arrival, she takes to her bed and galls into a catatonic state. He helps bury her and put her away in a vault, but when she reappears, he flees. Poe seems to present her as a ghostlike figure. Before she was buried, she roamed around the house quietly not noticing anything.
According to the narrator, Lady Madeline “passed slowly through a remote portion of the apartment, and without having noticed his presence, disappeared”(668). Overall Madeline Usher appears to be completely overcome by mental disorder. Roderick Usher, the head of the house, is an educated man. He comes from a rather wealthy family and owns a huge library. He had once been an attractive man and “the character of his face had been at all time remarkable” (667). However, his appearance deteriorated over time.
Roderick had changed so much that “the narrator doubted to whom he spoke”(667). Rodericks altered appearance probably was caused by his insanity. The narrator notes various symptoms of insanity from Rodericks behaviors: “in the manner of my friend I was struck with an incoherence..an inconsistency..habitual trepidancy, and excessive nervous agitation. His action was alternately vivacious and sullen. His voice varied rapidly from a tremulous indecision to that of the lost drunkard, or the irreclaimable eater of opium”(667).
These are “the features of the mental disorder of the narrators friend”(672). Rodericks state worsens throughout the story. He becomes increasingly restless and unstable, especially after the burial of his sister. He is not able to sleep and claims that he hears noises. All in all, he is an unbalanced man trying to maintain an balance is 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 boyhood. He is also educated and analytical. He observes Usher and concludes that his friend has a mental disorder. He looks for natural scientific explanations for what Roderick senses. Criticizing Usher for his fantasies, the narrator claims that Roderick is “enchained by certain superstitious impressions in regard to thee dwelling which he tenanted”(668). The narrators tone suggests that he cannot understand Usher.
However, he himself is superstitious. When he looks upon the house, even before he met Roderick Usher, he observes “here can be no doubt that the consciousness of the rapid increase of my superstition” (665). The narrator also automatically turns away from an unpleasant truth by reasoning or by focusing of something else. When he and Roderick go down to bury Madeline, he speculates that she may not be completely dead yet. Studying her face, he notes “the mockery of faint blush upon the bosom and the face”(672).
Yet, rather than mentioning his suspicion to his friend, he remains silent and continues the burial. Furthermore, when Roderick claims that there are ghosts in the house, the narrator feels fear too, but hi dismisses Rodericks and his own fear by attributing them to a natural cause. He tells Roderick that “the appearances are merely not uncommon”(674). In the end, this fear finally overcomes him. Although he had been able to suppress his fears all along, Lady Madelines reappearance runs him out of the house.
The three characters of course are unique people with distinct characters, but they are tied together by the same type of “mental disorder”. All of them suffer from insanity, yet each responds differently. Lady Madeline seems to accept the fact that she is insane and continues her life with that knowledge. Roderick Usher appears realize his mental state and struggles very hard to hold on to his sanity. The narrator, who is slowly but surely contraction the disease, wants to deny what he sees, hears, and senses. He, in the end, escapes from the illness because he flees form the house.
Poe uses the imagery and the life-like characteristics of an otherwise decaying house as a device for giving the house a supernatural atmosphere. For example, from the very beginning of the story, the reader can tell that there is something unusual and almost supernatural about the building. As the narrator approaches the home of his long-time friend, Roderick Usher, he refers to the house as the “melancholy House of Usher”(664). Upon looking at the building, he even describes the feeling he has as “a sense of insufferable gloom pervading my spirit”(664). The windows appear to be “vacant,” and “eye-like” and the narrator goes on to observe t …