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"The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe

Starcraft 2!

Dana Linde

on 16 January 2013

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Transcript of "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe

Themes Synopsis of Story Symbolism, Imagery, and Techniques Characters Roderick Usher Madeline Usher Narrator Setting Edgar Allan Poe May have been inspired by the events of the real Usher house - A sailor and the young wife of the older owner were caught and entombed in their trysting spot by her husband. When the Usher House was torn down in 1800, two bodies were found embraced in a cavity in the cellar. (wikipedia) The unnamed narrator follows up a letter to visit his old friend Roderick Usher.

The narrator tries to console him; they participate in various artistic pursuits The house shook from the power of a storm going on
Its cracks widen and shatter the house and it sinks into the tarn Madeline dies and they entomb her body for awhile to prevent any defilement from medical students. Madeline is actually alive! She crawls out of her grave and confronts the guys.
Roderick dies of fright. Roderick looks very ghastly: his sister, Madeline, is struck with an unknown illness Roderick goes steadily insane
After reading a book to him, the narrator becomes aware of very coincidental noises. House A master of Gothic horror
Wrote the story in 1939
Also wrote the famous poem "The Raven" the ancient abode of the Usher family
antiquated; in a Gothic style of architecture
pretty sad looking; barely intact
Description of the house:
the discoloration had been great
gray walls
few rank sedges
few white trunks of decayed trees Tarn A lake by the house that reflects the image of the house Description of the lake:
precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn
silent tarn Inside the house:
very sophisticated and full of art and literature but creepy Description of the rooms:
Gothic archway
sombre tapestries
dark and intricate passageways
ebony blackness of the floors
phantasmagoric armorial trophies Fullfils the role of the ordinary guy thrust into a world of strangeness Friends with Roderick when young
The only rational one
Tries to get Roderick out of his funk
Reacts normally to his situation. Is naturally uneasy about the house, whereas servants and the Ushers are not
"Lives to tell the tale"'
Never really gets what goes on in the house Quotes about him:
"I was forced to fall back upon the unsatisfactory conclusion", "it was a mystery all insoluble"
-shows his misunderstanding of the Usher event and its scariness
"I still wondered to find how unfamiliar were the fancies which ordinary images were stirring up"
- he is naturally disturbed by the seemingly "ordinary" items of the house that are arranged to give such a dreadful atmosphere Crazy guy Twin brother of Madeline
Symbolic of the rotting aristocrat- Very cultured, but with strange tastes and pretty useless
Knows his death will come once Madeline dies
Perpetually melancholy/depressed
Slowly goes insane with the knowledge that he buried his sister ALIVE Some physical quotes
a cadaverousness of complexion
lips somewhat thin and pallid
ghastly pallor of the skin
hopeless and frail Quotes about his personality
"I shall perish, I must perish in this deplorable folly"
"I have indeed no abhorrence of danger, except in its absolute effect-in terror"
-perhaps he is so scared of what will happen once Madeline dies because he knows he will die too and so will the family line Strange, strange girl Twin sister of Roderick
Afflicted with an unknown disease which causes her to seem as if she's dead
Pretty strong - gets out of a locked crypt after a few days (zombie?)
Kills brother due to scaring him, maybe out of revenge Interesting to note:

He does not actually help Madeline - perhaps guilt from both from incest. He wants to kill off the sick family Quotes:
"I regarded her with astonishment not unmingled with dread"
"The disease of lady Madeline had long baffled the skill of her physicians"
"There was blood on her white robes
"-ghostlike, "white"
-blood on her innocence The failure to adapt:
The Usher family stagnated over several generations; it "had put forth, at no period any enduring branch" so they quite possibly were incestual and bred within the family ("the entire family lay in the direct line of descent")-not uncommon in aristocratic households
no change means the failure of one to adapt to anything new and thus unable to survive
Madeline's illness may be metaphorical of the result of having no change in their blood
Other examples are the state of the house-"minute fungi overspread the whole exterior"- the fungi grew as a result of the house not being regularly maintained, it must be 'changed' regularly to prevent such growth
Madeline and her brother seal themselves off from society-another example of them failing to adapt to the outside world

Perhaps the guilt of incest in the family prompts the Ushers to remain in their house
This may be why Roderick leaves Madeline in the tomb and why he know he is going to die-as atonement for this crime and maybe implied incest Madness:
Stems from a variety of sources
The house- it brings down even the narrator; it must have taken a toll on Roderick's mind having lived there his whole life
Some sickness from incest manifested from Roderick's guilt
Madeline's illness quite possibly just misunderstood by her brother's increasing mental instability Fear
Much of the story is described with a very haunting and supernatural atmosphere (tone is quite "dull, dark", "there was an iciness, a sickening of the heart")
Much of it can be attributed to the narrator's natural fear of such a strange place

Everything can be scientifically explained; this is not contradicted
Madeline's illness can be misunderstood by everyone, and she was wrongly buried
The house fell apart because it was structurally weak
It still it has a supernatural element-shows us that fear can blot out our most rational instincts

Roderick is only afraid of "terror"
He dies from it, wholly expecting to
Fear is the mind killer
Represents the family-when the line stops, the house is destroyed
"the appellation of the House of Usher" included "both the family and the family mansion"
Structurally intact ("little token of instability") but had an "indication of extensive decay"
a "barely perceptible fissure"-represents how close the family is to death-which "rapidly widened" Then the twins die

Personified ("vacant eye-like windows"), like a member of the family

Like the family, it is quite "antiquated" and has many "phantasmagoric trophies"; artistically beautiful but strange The House Reflections:
Roderick and Madeline are twins
The house is reflected in the Tarn, reflection is "remodelled and inverted"
Shows the interconnection of these things-the house eventually sinks into the lake and into its reflection, and the twins die at the same time

Possibly represents the stagnation of the family-everything is always the same (same twins, same reflection)
Madeline occasionally enters a trance
Brother may have known about the nature of the disease, but wanted to kill her off to gain some independence Disease
Perhaps coming from a genetic disease

Roderick frequently refers to his demise

Dark and evil atmosphere
word choice: "dull, dark", "soundless", "black", "dreary"
Shows feeling of place: "an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart" A spoof?
The last book that the narrator reads to him, The Mad Trist is a cliche romance
It is "uncouth and unimaginative", but the story eventually reflects the events Roderick and the narrator experience-it builds up to a cliche climax at the same time Madeline comes back
Thus the fall could merely be a spoof of the popular horror stories at the time; it is also "uncouth and unimaginative" Art
Lots of weird, artistic tastes in visual art, music, and poetry
Most of it is too strange to be considered good-Roderick's one good painting is of a tomb
Perhaps his obsession with death leads him to make immortal art that would last even when he dies
Funny because the house 'dies off' as well, and nothing remains of it save "fragments", maybe fragments of memory

The poem "The Haunted Palace" (also written by Poe earlier)
The house is structured like a human head- "two luminous windows"
May represent the brain-there is a king there and a "glorious" palace
Eventually becomes a "tomb"-represents the madness that Roderick goes into "we painted and read together, or I listened, as if in dream to the wild improvisations of his guitar"
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