Fall of the House of Usher

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Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” was written in 1839. The gothic horror story has a psychological element and arguable symbols that have given rise to many critical readings. It can be viewed literally or metaphorically. The collapsing of the house down into the tarn symbolizes the ultimate collapse of the Usher family. In Poe’s short story, symbolism is the mechanism used to create understanding, images in order to establish mood, and reason to the story. There are no symbols of absolute good, and Poe’s mission was to create a setting of terror for the reader. The most significant symbol in the story is the house of Usher, externally and internally, representing the physical and mental effects of Roderick and Madeline Usher and the narrator. In the beginning of the story, the narrator arrives at the House of Usher, and already, he is mentally overwhelmed with emotion. The narrator explains his experience, “With the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit.” (Poe 397) This is the first effect Poe creates for the narrator. He is explaining that while looking up at the mansion, the gloom that spread through his spirit was too extreme to bear. The mental effect he feels from viewing the house undoubtedly makes him uneasy and concerned with what is about to come. The description he gave of the house is an obvious sign that the visit he was about to encounter with Roderick Usher was not going to be the most pleasant or comfortable one. The narrator says, “I looked upon the scene before me, upon the mere house, upon the bleak walls, upon the vacant eyelike windows, with an utter depression of soul.” (Poe 397) From the characteristics the narrator gave of the house, he would ultimately feel depressed because there was no signs of life. Each characteristic of the house is symbolic of something, or signal for what is
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