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English Short Story Seminar 12U

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on 18 March 2013

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Transcript of English Short Story Seminar 12U

The Fall of the House of Usher Seminar About the Author -born January 19th, 1809 in Massachusetts, United States
- Considered the father of detective stories
- Poe never stuck to one type of literature; he would switch from stories to poems and the genre they fell into
- Poe was in the military with his younger brother during his young adulthood
- After being in the military he began his publishing career Edgar Allan Poe Works Throughout Edgars life he wrote many pieces of literature. Some of these include:

- The Black Cat
- The Fall of the House of Usher
- The Imp of the Perverse
- The Tell Tale Heart
- Alone
- The Raven

Shortly after the publishing of The Raven, Poe lost his wife to tuberculosis Setting This story takes place in the fall, during the 1800s.
The narrator gives an in depth description of his friend Rodrick Ushers creepy, dreary house. This house emits a negative, almost demonic aura with its cracked walls, broken trees and green ponds. The dark clouds cover the sky, a symbol of no salvation for the home as well as the family.
"During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens" (pg 209 line 1) Characters Narrator: Intelligent, skittish, well grounded

Rodrick: Unstable, relying

Madeline: Absent for most of story; no characteristics were really brought to light. Her attack on Usher could show she is clingy, and grudge bearing

House: Considered a character because of its importance to the story
"I looked upon the scene.. with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation"
The house almost seems like a haunted spirit that brings evil and misfortune to anyone with enters it Conflicts Person vs. Person

-Rodrick vs. Narrator
- Rodrick vs. Madeline

Person vs. Self

- Rodrick vs. Himself
- Narrator vs. Himself

Person vs. Nature

Rodrick/ Madeline vs. their sickness Themes Horror, anger, loss of innocence

There has also been discussion topics about this story including incest. People are suggesting that there was a "special" relationship between Rodrick and his twin sister Madeline.. this theme is indefinite. Comparison: A Rose for Emily - lack of colour in setting; dark and dreary
- powerful family name; only one descendant left
- owner "unable" to leave home
- killing in order to be together forever (Madeline killing Rodrick; Emily killing Homer)
- home is symbolic and could be considered it's own character Trigger: Narrator recieves letter from Rodrick Arriving at Rodrick's House Reunited with his friend Rodrick; notes that Rodrick looks very ill Narrator tries to keep his friend occupied by playing music and other activities with him Madeline dies Rodrick and Narrator hide Madelines body in the house out of fear of experimentation Rodrick and the narrator continue to feel uneasy; Rodrick sees eerie yellow smoke Madeline bursts into Rodrick's room and attacks him The Narrator flees the house; the house cracks in two and crumbles to the ground Throughout the short story The Fall of The House of Usher, the house of Roderick Usher is often seen in the most horrendous light imaginable.

- “…I knew not how it was-but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit.” (Page 209)

- “I looked upon…the mere house,…simple landscape…bleak walls…vacant eye-like windows…a few white trunks of decayed trees-with utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after dream of the reveler upon opium.” (Page 209)

- “There was an iciness, a sinking. A sickening of the heart…what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher?” (Page 209)

- “…in this mansion of gloom…” (Page 210)

- “…I entered the Gothic archway of the hall.” (Page 211)

The only moment the house is seen in any positive way, is when Roderick wrote a song about what the estate “was” like. Quote that express' the characters view of the house:

- “In the greenest of our valleys, by good angels tenanted, once a fair and stately palace-radiant place-reared its head… Is but a dim-remembered story of the old time entombed.” (Page 217)

Who portrayed the house in such a way: The visitor

Where/ when does the visitor take his time to think about the houses’ appearance: while approaching the house and during his temporary stay within the house 6 Steps The visitor also mentions how the furniture and the surroundings in the house look like to him/ make him feel ;

- “…I know not how, to heighten the vague sentiments of which I have already spoken. While the objects around me-… the somber tapestries of the walls, the ebon blackness of the floors…rattled as I strode…” (Page 212)

- “Feeble gleams of crimsoned light made their way through the trellised panes…” (Page 212)

- “Dark draperies hung upon the walls. The general furniture was profuse, comfortless, antique, and tattered.” (Page 212)

Who: the visitor

What is the visitor observing; the general furniture/ decorations in the house.

When is the visitor making such observations: when he id escorted through the house to meet RoderickWhy; the visitor is merely letting the reader in his thoughts and how he perceives the furniture/ decorations The visitor also takes note of the atmosphere of the house:

- “…an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which has reeked up from the decayed trees,…” (Page 210)

- “…I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow. An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded all.” (Page 212)

- “…half smothered in its oppressive atmosphere,…” (Page 218)

Who; the visitor is observing the atmosphere
What; the atmosphere is being observed
What/ when; the atmosphere during different times of his stay
Why; he is making such observations because they seem to unnerve him in a way making him unable to ignore it Roderick Usher’s health was poor at the arrival of his visitor, and diminished greatly during the visitors stay.

- “The now ghastly pallor of the skin, and the now miraculous luster of the eye,…the silken hair…suffered to grow all unheeded, and as, in its wild gossamer texture, it floated rather than fell…” (Page 213)

- “…an observable change…came over my friend. His ordinary manner had vanished… He roamed from chamber to chamber with hurried, unequal, and objectless step…the luminousness of his eye had utterly gone out.” (Page 219)

- “I rushed to the chair in which he sat. His eyes were bent fixedly before him…his whole countenance there reigned a stony rigidity…I placed my hand upon his shoulder…a strong shudder over his whole person; a sickly smile quivered about his lips…” (Page 223)

Who; Roderick and his health
What; Roderick’s health being diminished greatly
Where/ when; From the time period of the visitors arrival to his departure
Why; he has a bodily disease The foreshadowing in the story and the guilt that strikes Roderick, gives you reason to believe when Madeline was placed in the coffin, she was surely alive.

- “…one evening, having informed me abruptly that the lady Madeline was no more, he stated his intention of preserving her corpse for a fortnight…in one of the numerous vaults within the main walls if the building.” (Page 218)

- “…the mockery of a faint blush upon the bosom and the face, and that suspiciously lingering smile upon the lip which is so terrible in death.” (Page 219)

- “…some days of bitter grief having elapsed, an observable change came over the features of the mental disorder of my friend.” (Page 219)

- “’Not hear it?-yes, I hear it, and have heard it. Long-long long-many minutes, many hours, many days, have I heard it…’” (Page223)

Who; Roderick’s conscience
What; Roderick knew he buried his sister alive
When; the day of her “death”
Where; in a vault below his visitors apartment
Why; he didn’t want doctors to perform tests on her deceased body so he stored her downstairs for a two weeks ESSAY OUTLINE
How can the short story The Fall of the House of Usher contain elements of a love, comedy, and horror story? LOVE
1.The narrator and Roderick Usher- The narrator has a close bond with Usher. With the request of Usher, the narrator comes to visit Usher as he is ill. “I gazed up on him with a feeling half of pity, half of awe.” “to an anomalous species of terror, I found him a bounden slave” He wants to make his friend feel happier, so the two read, play music, etc.

He also helps his friend, even in the most insane situations, when he helps bury Madeline in the house: “At the request of Usher, I personally aided him in the arrangements for the temporary entombment”
2.Usher and Madeline- Usher shows love for his sister, Madeline. Her death puts him in distraught and madness. He demands keeping her buried in the house. The family has died out, and the estate and the two siblings is the only thing that remains. “...His sold companion for long years, his last and only relative on earth.” 3.Usher and the house- Along with Madeline, the estate is the only thing left of Usher’s ancestors. He feels as if the house has some part of his self and Madeline. He insists of keeping his sisters body in the house and coincidentally the house collapses as both siblings die.


1.The over use of elements of horror stories- the storm gives an obvious and over used way to make the story horrific. The ideas are unoriginal and not so frightening. “...an instinctive spirit prompted me to certain low and indefinite sounds which came, through the pauses of a storm...”
2.Over-the-top descriptions- weaken the sense of humour in the story. “feeble gleams of encrimsoned light made their way through the trellised panes, and served to render sufficiently distinct the more prominent objects around...”
3.Irony- As the siblings are apart, the house decays, even though the house collapses as they reunite together, yet die. Usher feels as if the house has a connection with him and his sister, but he is afraid of the house when he hears sounds. HORROR
1.Gothic descriptions – gloom, dread, and depression, personification of the house. “...with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit.”

2.Madeline’s death- She apparently comes back from the dead, all bloody/dirty, and attacks Usher. “She remained trembling and reeling to and fro...” “there was blood upon her white robes, and the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her emaciated frame”

3.Usher’s insanity- Usher started to hear sounds, muttered to his self, and kept believing that Madeline was buried alive and was coming back to get him. “I now tell you that I heard her first feeble movements in the hollow coffin” “Is she not hurrying to up braid me for my haste” Son coeur est un luth suspendu;
Sitot qu'on le touche il resonne

His/her heart is a poised lute;
As soon as it is touched, it resounds
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