“The Fall of the House of Usher ” is a gothic short story written by Edgar Allen Poe, which tells the tale of an unknown narrator’s visit to the house of Rodrick Usher, a mentally ill and oppressed drunkard and opium eater enchained by distressing superstitions. After the
Tone: ” A sense of insufferable gloom, pervaded my spirit… desolate or terrible.” “There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart… of the sublime.” “I struggled to reason… I felt.” The protagonist is unsettles, sickened and cold upon arriving at the House of Usher.
Mood: “eye- like windows” “… the gloomy furniture of the room… of the bed.” Poe uses negative connotative words such as dull, dark, soundless, dreary, melancholy, decayed, depressed and unearthly to describe the setting’s atmosphere and appearance, developing a dark, depressing and bleak mood to the setting. Personification is used to create a liveliness to the house. “dry and hollow sounding wood alarummed.. forest.”
Plot: Unknown narrator meets with the lonely, mentally ill and oppressed Rodrick Usher. Usher is enchained by superstitions, miserable knowing he shall “perish in deplorable folly” as a lost drunkard and eater of opium. How he came to be this way, he is unsure of, possibly due to the death of his sister, leaving him the last of his ancient race of the Ushers or the cause could be the melancholy effect of the shadowy mansion. The narrator anecdotes back to a time when Usher impromptuously cited a rhapsody titled ‘ The Haunted Place ‘. Together they place the dead body of his sister Madeline in an underground vault and during the next several days, Usher’s mental state had deteriorated even more. During a tempestuous storm on the 7th or 8th night after placing the body in the vault an irrepressible tremor pervades the protagonist’s frame. He meets with Usher and in order to calm his estrained and hysteric demeanor, the narrator reads him one of his favorite romances, the antique volume “Mad Trist” of Sir Launcelot Canning. Oddly, whilst reading the book to Usher, the noisy shrieks which had occurred in the book was heard by the protagonist after he recites each passage. After Usher reveals his secret, that he had been hearing these noises for days and knew that the source of the moaning were uttered by his deceased sister Madeline, the corpse of the woman appears at the doorway, covered in blood, trembling and reeling and moaning low cries. Suddenly Usher falls to the ground a corpse, “fallen victim to the terrors he had anticipated” thus prompting the narrator to flee the mansion amidst the storm. As a blood red moon shines upon the mansion, he gazes back, observing the zigzag fissure noticed upon arrival widening, bringing the entire mansion “House of Usher” falling down, it’s fragments scattered everywhere.
Personal response: I genuinely felt scared and unsettled at the developed mysterious atmosphere which Poe has described using haunting imagery. I too heard a low howling noise whilst reading the unsettling passage ” … the echo (but a stifled and dull one certainly)… disturbed me.”