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Poe vs. Oates

An analytical comparison between Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" and Joyce Carol Oates' "Where Is Here?" based on the importance of setting.
by

alexis pflug

on 20 April 2016

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Transcript of Poe vs. Oates

Setting in "The... House..."
Poe describes his setting in "The...House..." as "melancholy, bleak walls, vacant eye like windows, decaying trees, mansion of gloom, atmosphere of condensation, and crumbling walls.
Setting in "Where..."
Oates describes the setting in her story as "a quiet residential neighborhood, modern, flowers, window seat, chandelier, hunter green carpet, cheerful drapery, fireplace, artwork, and patterned wallpaper"
"The House's" Mood
All throughout Poe's story "The Fall of the House of Usher" the reader feels a sense of dark "insufferable doom". The atmosphere is depressed and bitter and like most of Poe's writings, the mood only increases in creepiness; sort of like the story is leading you on in suspense until the end.
"Where's" Mood
There is a steady increase of wariness and tension as you read Oates' "Where Is Here?". In the beginning you get the sense of a "normal" family household. Then the parents meet the Stranger and from then on the tension starts to increase.
In the middle there are some spurts of melancholy from the Stranger and then he is cheery again. This all causes a mood of confusion.
Finally, in the end, the mood abruptly changes to agitation and aggression when the Father throws the Stranger out and yells at the Mother.

Contrasting Details in "Where Is Here?"
The importance of setting in Oates' story is very different from Poe's but equally as important. Oates' used the house in her story as the place where a ghost with unfinished business needed to return.
The setting in a story is always important, it lays down the foundation for the story. Without Oates' beginning description of a brighter house; I believe the story would not have been as successful.
Gothic Literature
Both Edgar Allan Poe and Joyce Carol Oates were or are writers in the genre typically known as goth.
Gothic literature writer's tend to include many of the same things in their stories.
A bleak or remote setting; often grand, such as a castle or mansion
A gloomy atmosphere, a sense of impending doom
Characters in physical or psychological torment
Horrific or violent accidents
Supernatural elements
Poe vs. Oates
"The Fall of the House of Usher" vs. "Where is Here?"
Just by reading these words you can start to feel a bit of dread knowing that a scary story is coming.
So far the setting in Oates' story doesn't seem scary. So as of right now, you can't tell that "Where Is Here?" is a gothic literature story.
So the mood changes quite frequently in this story.
In the beginning of the story the reader thinks the house and family are just normal. The mom is getting the table ready for dinner, the kids are doing their homework. The house is modern with regular furnishings.
In the end after the Stranger has left something different starts happening to the house. The lights are flickering, the wallpaper looks drained of color, and the room has a dark shadow over it. The room had "a pulse beat mute with rage".
This is the second to last paragraph but it's also the paragraph that the story has been building up for. The supernatural element that's meant to scare. The contrast from the beginning only adds to the intensity.
Importance of Setting in "The... House..."
The importance of setting in Poe's story is very significant.The setting, the mansion, is a symbol of gloom and supernaturalism in the story. The House is linked to Roderick Usher, adding to the strangeness and creepiness.
Importance of Setting in "Where Is Here?"
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