Edgar Allan Poe wrote, The Fall of the House of Usher, using characterization, and imagery to depict fear, terror, and darkness on the human mind. Roderick and his twin sister, Madeline, are the last of the all time-honored House of Usher (Jacobs and Roberts, pg. 462). They are both suffering from rather strange illnesses, which may be attributed to the intermarriage of the family.
Roderick suffers from a morbid acuteness of the senses( Jacobs and Roberts, pg. 4), while Madelines illness is characterized by a settled apathy, a gradual wasting away of the person, and frequent all though transient affections of a partly cataleptical character(Jacobs and Roberts, pg. 465) which caused her to lose consciousness and feeling. The body would then assume a deathlike rigidity. Roderick believes the house is controlling his condition. He calls on the narrator, a boyhood friend, in a last ditch effort to cheer his life up by giving him someone to communicate with.
The narrator arrives to a house of gloom and darkness with decaying furniture. He immediately is afraid for his life and wonders how his friend can live in a house of such darkness. Several days pass and it is filled with art discussions, guitar playing, and literature reading, all trying to keep Rodericks mind busy (Jacobs and Roberts, pg. 465). The narrator and Roderick prematurely unconfined Madeline in a vault in hopes to alleviate his metal condition. She is either dead, in a coma, or a vampire; Poe allows the reader to make his own assumption.
She is possibly a vampire because they bolt down the coffin hoping she will not escape. As some days pass his mental condition worsens possibly related to the fear and terror of the noises coming from the vault. The narrator is unaware if the noises are coming from the coffin, but he believes they are all throughout the house. As they are reading literature in the study, there is a loud knock at the door, it is Madeline at the door, embodied in blood from scratching her way out of the coffin.
The narrator realizes they buried her alive and looks to Roderick for answers. Roderick, terrified, is unable to look at Madeline, realizing that death has come for him. Madeline proceeds to walk towards Roderick and falls on him, the reader assumes that she begins to eat him but the narrator flees in fear of death. A gust of wind blew the doors, and there did stand the enshrouded figure of the lady Madeline… There was blood upon her white robes, and the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her emaciated frame.
For a moment she remained trembling and reeling to and fro upon the threshold, then with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward uponher brother, and in her violent and now final death agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse Suddenly the wrath of the storm increased, and the mansion began to shake and crumble. The friend frantically fled from the chamber and from out of that mansion. Only once did he turn to glance back, when his attention was arrested by a wild light The radiance was that of the full setting… ood red moon, which now show vividly through that once barely discernible fissure There was a loud explosion, and the walls of the mansion came crashing down.
Deep and dank tarn.. closed sullenly and silently of over the fragments of the House of Usher. Poe introduces three characters: Lady Madeline, Roderick Usher, and the narrator, whose name is never give. Lady Madeline, twin sister of Roderick Usher, does not speak one word throughout the story. In fact, she is absent from most of the story, and she and the narrator do not stay together in the same room.
At the narrators arrival, she takes to her bed and galls into a catatonic state. He helps bury her and put her away in a vault, but when she reappears, he flees. Poe seems to present her as a ghostlike figure. Before she was buried, she roamed around the house quietly not noticing anything. According to the narrator, Lady Madeline passed slowly through a remote portion of the apartment, and without having noticed his presence, disappeared(668). Overall Madeline Usher appears to be completely overcome by mental disorder. Roderick Usher, the head of the house, is an educated man.
He comes from a rather wealthy family and owns a huge library. He had once been an attractive man and the character of his face had been at all time remarkable (667). However, his appearance deteriorated over time. Roderick had changed so much that the narrator doubted to whom he spoke(667). Rodericks altered appearance probably was caused by his insanity. The narrator notes various symptoms of insanity from Rodericks behaviors: in the manner of my friend I was struck with an incoherencean inconsistencyhabitual trepidancy, and excessive nervous agitation. His action was alternately vivacious and sullen.
His voice varied rapidly from a tremulous indecision to that of the lost drunkard, or the irreclaimable eater of opium(667). These are the features of the mental disorder of the narrators friend(672). Rodericks state worsens throughout the story. He becomes increasingly restless and unstable, especially after the burial of his sister. He is not able to sleep and claims that he hears noises. All in all, he is an unbalanced man trying to maintain an balance is his life. In contrast to Roderick, the narrator appears to be a man of common sense. He seems to have a good heart in that he comes to help a friend from his boyhood.
He is also educated and analytical. He observes Usher and concludes that his friend has a mental disorder. He looks for natural scientific explanations for what Roderick senses. Criticizing Usher for his fantasies, the narrator claims that Roderick is enchained by certain superstitious impressions in regard to thee dwelling which he tenanted(668). The narrators tone suggests that he cannot understand Usher. However, he himself is superstitious. When he looks upon the house, even before he met Roderick Usher, he observes here can be no doubt that the consciousness of the rapid increase of my superstition (665).
The narrator also automatically turns away from an unpleasant truth by reasoning or by focusing of something else. When he and Roderick go down to bury Madeline, he speculates that she may not be completely dead yet. Studying her face, he notes the mockery of faint blush upon the bosom and the face(672). Yet, rather than mentioning his suspicion to his friend, he remains silent and continues the burial. Furthermore, when Roderick claims that there are ghosts in the house, the narrator feels fear too, but hi dismisses Rodericks and his own fear by attributing them to a natural cause.
He tells Roderick that the appearances are merely not uncommon(674). In the end, this fear finally overcomes him. Although he had been able to suppress his fears all along, Lady Madelines reappearance runs him out of the house. The three characters of course are unique people with distinct characters, but they are tied together by the same type of mental disorder. All of them suffer from insanity, yet each responds differently. Lady Madeline seems to accept the fact that she is insane and continues her life with that knowledge. Roderick Usher appears realize his mental state and struggles very hard to hold on to his sanity.
The narrator, who is slowly but surely contraction the disease, wants to deny what he sees, hears, and senses. He, in the end, escapes from the illness because he flees form the house. Poe uses the imagery and the life-like characteristics of an otherwise decaying house as a device for giving the house a supernatural atmosphere. For example, from the very beginning of the story, the reader can tell that there is something unusual and almost supernatural about the building. As the narrator approaches the home of his long-time friend, Roderick Usher, he refers to the house as the melancholy House of Usher(664).
Upon looking at the building, he even describes the feeling he has as a sense of insufferable gloom pervading my spirit(664). The windows appear to be vacant, and eye-like and the narrator goes on to observe the rank sedges, and the black and lurid tarn, in which he sees the reflection of the house. He later says, when I again uplifted my eyes to the house itself, from its image in the pool, there grew a strange fancy(665). Although the narrator tries to view everything he sees in a rational manner, upon seeing the house and its surroundings, he has a heightened sense of superstition.
He goes on to say that, about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity (666). This statement indicates that perhaps the house does indeed have supernatural characteristic. The narrator observes the details of the house once more and finds that the house has fungi growing all over it and the masonry of the building is decaying. He says, there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still perfect adaptation of parts, and the utterly porous, and evidently decayed condition of the individual stones(666).
This observation suggests that perhaps something supernatural is holding the house intact, otherwise it would have fallen to the ground long ago. Upon entering the house, the narrator sees the inside of the house as well as the odd behavior and personality of its inhabitants and is increasingly convinced that the house has some supernatural effect on those who live there. For example, while walking through the passages he is confused as to why familiar objects such as the tapestries on the wall or the trophies fill him with a feeling of increased superstition and he even describes the armorial trophies as phantasmagoric (666).
Upon meeting Usher, the narrator remarks, the physique of the gray walls and the turrets, and of the dim tarn into which they all looked down, had at length, brought about upon the morale of his existence (668). The narrator is remarking on Ushers strange behavior in the house. He later describes his own superstition late one night before going to bed, I endeavored to believe that mush, if not all of what I felt, was due to the phantasmagoric influence of the gloomy furniture of the room(673). He also describes feelings of alarm which he has as causeless, perhaps indicating that the house may in fact be having some effect on him.
Throughout the story, Poes imagery of the house and the inanimate objects almost life-like characteristics, he is giving the house a supernatural quality. Fear is a basic element of human emotion that is caused by the expectation or realization of danger. The existence of fear is essential for establishing our beliefs and the actions we take throughout our lives. The Fall of the House of Usher: revolves around this realm of fear, and reveals the importance of facing and overcoming our fears. Poe suggests in the story that the denial of our fears can lead to madness and insanity.
This message is especially clear as we follow the deterioration of Roderick Ushers mind and the resulting impact on the narrator of the story. Upon entering the house, the narrator discovered the true source of Rodericks illness. I feel that I must inevitably abandon life and reason together in my struggles with some fatal demon of fear(668). Roderick is overwhelmed by the fear he is experiencing and it affects every aspect of his life. It is the constant presence of fear that has caused his illness. Roderick does not know how, or is unwilling to try to overcome his fears. One of Rodericks fears is death.
He is form a prestigious family. Roderick and his sister are the last of the long line of Usher descendants. Her decease would leave him the last of the ancient race of the Ushers(668). Roderick seems not only to fear death but also the uncertainty the future holds. The narrator of the story states that Rodericks fear may be linked directly to the house. He is enchained by certain superstitious impressions in regard to the dwelling which he tenanted, and from which for many years, he had never ventured forth(668). The narrator is implying that Rodericks mental condition may be relieved by him leaving the house and facing his fears.
Because of Rodericks fear, however, he is restrained from leaving and does not make the attempt to defeat this enduring power that holds him captive. After Madeline is placed into the vault, Rodericks fear increases and his insanity becomes more evident. He roamed from chamber to chamber with hurried, unequal, and objectless step. The pallor of his countenance has assumed, if possible, a more ghastly hue(673). The narrator closely studied Roderick and tried to understand his fears, while at the same time he was ignoring the inception of his own fears.
Inevitably, the dramatic and intense fear was passed on to the narrator. It was no wonder that his condition terrified-that is agitated me(573). This statement indicates the character that has maintained his rationality has, at this point, also succumbed to fear. The narrator does not recognize that his feeling are derived from the fear within him. When Madeline returns from her supposed death both characters become paralyzed by fear. Roderick is ultimately destroyed by his biggest fear, that is, fear itself. He brings about his own illness and death by refusing to face and conquer his fears.
The narrator escaped form the house and its eventual collapse, but there is no indication that this escape frees him for his fears. This seems to suggest that fear is continuous and that no salvation exists. The recurring concept of fear in the story show its power and impact on humanity. Poe show us that ultimately we must recognize our fears to be able to overcome them. The narrator of the story, an old friend of Roderick Usher, is shocked by the ghastly appearance and odd behavior of his long time acquaintance and it is from this impression and several odd occurrences that he becomes increasingly uneasy.
For example, upon seeing Roderick, the narrator remarks, cadaverous of complexion; an eye large, liquid and luminous beyond comparison; lips pallid hair of web like softness (Poe, 667). Although Roderick is very much alive, his appearance would indicate death and his behavior show signs of deteriorating sanity. The fissure in the house seen earlier by the narrator symbolizes Rodericks deteriorating mental condition, as well (Burduck, 72). Upon the narrators entrance into the room, Roderick remarks on the solace he expected to afford him(Poe, 668).
Perhaps Roderick knows of some evil to come and he occupies his time with reading, music and the company of his old friend so that he will not go crazy. In addition superstitious impressions in regard to the dwelling which he tenant(Poe, 668). This indicates that perhaps Roderick is aware of some supernatural element belonging to the house. In addition to Rodericks appearance and behavior, the narrator is shocked to see the similarity in Madeline and Rodericks appearance. The fact that the two remaining members of the House of Usher appear so deathly, may be a sign of the final end to the House of Usher.
Later, upon putting Madelines supposedly dead body in a crypt, the narrator notices the unusually healthy complexion of the deceased Madeline, he tries to rationalize what he sees by concluding that is must have been caused by her particular illness. The fact that the color in her face is even mentioned may be a sign that perhaps she is not rally dead and that Madeline may appear in the story later. The narrator remarks, There were times, indeed, when I thought his unceasingly agitated mind was laboring with on oppressive secret, to divulge which he struggled for the necessary courage(Poe, 673).
The narrator also comments on how Roderick seems to stare at nothing and appears to be listening to some imaginary sound(Poe, 673). Again, this may be another hint of some evil occurrence yet to happen and Roderick does in fact lose his sanity as well as his life when Madeline reappears before Roderick and the narrator at the end of the story. In conclusion Poe excellent use of characterization and imagery to depict fear and darkness, truly make The Fall of the House of Usher a story of the battles the we must face our fears in order to free our mind.