Terror as a Method of Manipulation in "The Fall of the House of Usher"

1266 Words6 Pages
Edgar Allan Poe’s uses of terror and dark imagery have earned him a place among classic 19th century authors. The décor of his writing includes such familiar gothic set pieces as castles and mansions with human characteristics, underground passages, and characters with eclectic decorative tastes and creepy sexualities. These props are carefully placed within the context of a story in order to give Poe a strong impression of control: not only over his characters, but also over his audience by manipulating our senses and emotions, and forcing us to view things from different perspectives. He does this in several ways, using descriptive passages to introduce the mood of his unfolding drama, and a first person narrator to give his audience a sense that they are a part of the story. His method of presenting the details of a dramatic situation adds a sense of mystery that contributes to the fearful surroundings and helps build towards a climax. Poe’s ability to take even the most supernatural and unnerving details from his stories and make the emotions that they evoke apply to his audience suggests that the fear and terror associated with his stories are universally applicable and gives his writing a sublime flavor. In the beginning of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the narrator immediately sets a murky tone to the story by describing the scenery as he approaches Roderick Usher’s house. “I looked upon the scene before me—upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain—upon the bleak walls—upon the vacant eye-like windows—upon a few rank sedges—and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees—with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthy sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveler upon opium—the bitter lapse into common life—the hideous dropping off of the veil” (Poe 1508). Immediately we know that
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