The Fear In The House Of Usher

Essay, Research Paper


In the story The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe, setting is

used to portray many different things. Poe uses setting to suggest ideas,

effects, and images. It creates a mood and foreshadows future events.

Poe communicates facts about the characters through symbols

throughout the setting. In the story the narrator is going to the House of

Usher to comfort his friend, Roderick Usher who has fallen into a mental

depression. These negative influences ultimately lead to death in the

end. The story revolves around the effects of fear and how the denial of

our fears can lead to madness. #

The narrator is immediately skittish about the house and its occupants.

As he approaches the house, with the first glimpse of the building, a

sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. (Poe 21) The entire

opening scene was gloomy as if he d stepped into blackness. He

describes the house as having 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 earthly sensation more

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properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium (Poe 21). He

sees the image of the house as if it were a large a skull and we can sense

fear starting to invade the narrators mind. As he encounters his friend for

the first time in many years he is shocked Roderick s appearance. He

describes him as having A cadaverousness of complexion; an eye large,

liquid, and luminous beyond comparison; lips somewhat thin and very

pallid, but of a surpassingly beautiful curve . (Poe 25) It was as if he was

staring death in the face and he felt, startled and even awed (Poe 26)

at the sight of Usher. Roderick Usher had a twin sister named Madeline

who also resided in the mansion, although the narrator only caught

glimpses of her passing through the halls he, regarded her with utter

astonishment not unmingled with dread . From his arrival at the house to

the end of the story the narrator experiences a heightening of fear

towards the mansion and its occupants.

Upon the receipt of Roderick s letter the narrator is moved by the plea

of his only friend. He expressed an earnest desire to see [him], as his best

and indeed his only friend .(Poe 22) They were friends not out of the loved

they shared for each other, but out of convenience. Poe writes,

Although, as boys, we had been even intimate associates, yet I really

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knew little of my friend. (Poe 22) They both had no other friends to speak

of and shared the characteristics of darkness and gloom, and were both

excessively reserved. The poem Alone by Edgar Allan Poe best

describes the fear of loneliness the narrator experiences, And all I loved –

I loved alone -. Then – in my childhood, in the dawn. Of a most stormy life

- was drawn. Although the narrator knows little about Roderick he refers

to him as his best friend to cope with his fear of being alone. He is

intrigued with the Ushers family history and is drawn towards him for the

sake of excitement and adventure.

Roderick introduces the narrator into the world he has created while

being secluded inside the mansion for years. He shares that the books he

reads are about death, magic, medieval torture, and poetry. All of these

things show that Roderick is unstable and obsessed with death. As they

become reacquainted several days pass he informs the narrator that

Madeline has passed on. Madeline s death leaves Roderick the last of

the Ushers and in great depression. Roderick and the narrator place her

body in a vault that was small, damp, and entirely without means of

admission for light; lying, at great depth, immediately beneath that

portion of the building in which was my own sleeping apartment. (Poe 33)

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The narrator is not at all concerned with the location of her body and

goes along with Roderick s request. Edgar Allan Poe s House of Usher

writes it is, Not altogether insignificant that Madeline s burial chamber is

located beneath what the narrator describes as, my own sleeping

compartment . The narrator mentions a dream earlier concerning his

perceptions of the house. Could the whole experience have been a


To settle Roderick s mind the narrators reads him a story the Mad

Trist of Sir Launcelot Canning that lets all the madness loose. As he reads

the story, No sooner had these syllables passed my lips, than as if a shield

of brass had indeed, at the moment, fallen heavily upon a floor of silver.

(Poe 39) The narrator immediately panicked and Roderick sits still with no

reaction. He proceeded to read the story and as he read the scrapping

of the doors Madeline appeared at the doors. They had prematurely

buried her and the narrator had noticed a faint blush upon the bosom

and the face (Poe 34) but did and said nothing and continued with

Roderick s request. It is becomes apparent that the narrator is no longer

just a passive witness but an accomplice. As Madeline entered the room

she fell heavily inward upon the person of her brother , and in her violent

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and now final death-agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse, and a victim

to the terrors he had anticipated. (Poe 40) The narrator shows us that

fear can restrain us from actions that could be beneficial and how fear

can be passed on to others , from Roderick to the narrator. He studied all

of Roderick s fears closely, meanwhile he was ignoring his own.

The narrator was in search of fulfilling his fear of loneliness and his want

for adventure through Roderick s life. It is suggested throughout the story

that the events taking place are merely dreams, fragments of the

narrators imagination. Poe writes that the image of the house must have

been a dream, I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building.

There are also several references made to the hallucinations being

induced to the use of opium. It could also be possible that Roderick was

the narrators alter ego. As stated in Edgar Allan Poe s House of Usher , In

meeting Usher, the narrator is symbolically staring into the face of his

psychological double . Poe shows us that excessive fear can lead to

insanity. As the narrator quickly fled the house and looked back to see

the House of Usher sink out of sight. The collapse of the house is symbolic

to the collapse of the narrators mind. Ultimately the story shows us that

we must recognize our fears to be able to overcome them.


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