A Comparison Of Poe And Roderick, The Fall Of The House Of Usher Essay, Research Paper
Reading “The Fall of the House of Usher”, one may readily see the similarities of character between Roderick Usher, the main character in the story, and of Edgar Allan Poe, the author. To an anomalous species of terror I found him a bounden slave. ‘I shall perish,’ said he, ‘I must perish in this deplorable folly. Thus. . . shall I be lost. I shudder at the thought of any, even the most trivial incident. . . this intolerble agitation of soul. . . In this unnerved–in this pitiable condition, I feel that I must inevitable abandon life and reason together, in some struggle with the grim phantasm, FEAR.’ (Poe 704) If one would attempt to examine the character of Roderick Usher alon with that of Edgar Allan Poe, one owuld see the above description of Usher is so much like Griswold’s similar description below of Poe’s individual makeup: He was at all times a dreamer. . . in heaven or hell–peopled with the creatures and the accidents of his brain. He walked the streets, in madness or melancholy, with lips moving in indistinct curses. . . eyesupturned in passionate prayer (never for himself, for he felt. . . that he was already damned). (Griswold 141) Poe was a multifaceted individual. Having gone through a tragic childhood, he never seemed to grasp onto reality or to his identity. With the abandonment by his father, the death of his mother, and the placement into a home where he was never legally adopted, Poe’s inadequacies emerged. With this shakey foundation, the future writer’s outlook on life was bleak and dreary (Bloom 141). Harold Bloom states that, “Poe’s genius was for negative and opposition” (11). Vincent Buranelli describes him also: “Edgar Allan Poe is the most complex personality in the gallery of American authors. No one else stands at the center of a mystery so profound” (19). The style of writing that Poe so often presents is indcative to the insight into the emotional and spiritual realm of life, making his works too complicated for many to understand. Roderick Usher is a man dying in his own environment–an environment of loneliness, darkness, and sever depressions. Being one of the last descendants of the Ushers, a victim of family incest, he is balancing on hte edge of sanity versus insanity. Poe describes Roderick as a person who suffers from “nervous agitation, acute bodily illness, and a mental disorder which oppressed him” (701). “The black and lurid tarn, and gray sedge, the ghastly tree stems, and the mansion of doom,” describe the conditions in which he is trapped (Poe 700). When comparing Poe and Roderick, we must not neglect the women in their lives. Poe’s deeply loved cousin, Virginia Clemm, was only thirteen when he married her (Buranelli 37). Through marriage, marred by financial and health problems, he found his love for Virginia to be a lasting love. He suffered great emotional pain and depression. Poe writes, “Each time I felt all the agonies of her death–and at each accession of the disorder, I loved her more dearly and clund to her life with more desperate pertinacity” (Poe qtd. in Buranelli 38). Her death, many feel, led to the emotional devastation of Poe. Roderick, too, was in love with a relative, his twin sister Madeline (Lawrence 32). She was Roderick’s “tenderly beloved sister, his sole companion, and last and only relative on earth” (Poe 705). They were together constantly. She, too, was dying. Incest, which had been occuring for generations had made death a certainty. Roderick knew that he was responsible for her death. Like Poe, Roderick mourned the death of his loved one until it led to his own ruin. Both Poe and Roderick, loving and losing, became poor excuses of men. Poe’s life turned into a world of heavy drinking, drug abuse, paranoid delusions, and obsession of women (Howarth 3). His life was ruined. “He died wanting more love and love killed him. A ghastly didease, love” (Lawrence 34). Roderick’s life is also a disgrace. After losing Madline, he has hallucinations about her returning to him from the grave. Poe describes this condition as “upon the very brink of sleep” (Poe qtd. in Wilbur 523). As the story concludes, Roderick visualizes Madeline returning to his arms. Both fall to the floor into the “darkness of sleep” better known as death (Wilbur 523). Finally, Roderick is at rest. Comparing Poe and Roderick becomes an easy task. The similarities of their character are present throughout Poe’s writing. Richard Wilbur states, “He sprinkled his stories with sly references to himself and to his personal history” (522). Poe, alone, faced a life of destruction. Roderick faced a life of destruction mentally. “The Fall of the House of Usher” depicts one charater, losing in love and dying in despair. The author himself, is portraying and living the character of Roderick to the fullest.
Works Cited Bloom, Harold, ed. Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Chelsa House, 1985.
Buranelli, Vincent. Edgar Allan Poe. Boston: Twayne, 1977. Griswald, Rufus Wilmot. “Edgar Allan Poe.” Moulton’s Library of Literary Criticism of English and American Authors. Ed. Martin Tucker. New York: Frederick Unger, 1978. 141-142. Howarth, William L., ed. The Twentieth Century Interpretations of Poe’s Tales. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1971. Lawrence, David Herbert. Edgar Allan Poe. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsa House, 1985. Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. Ed. R.V. Cassill. New York: W. W. Norton, 1986. 700-715. Wilbur, Richard. “The House of Poe.” Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism. Ed. Laruie Lanzen Harris. Michigan: Gale Research, 1981. 522-523.