Book Review: The Fall of the House of Usher

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The fall of the House of Usher is a menacing story filled with fantastic imagery. Edgar Allen Poe is a genius at the craft and it is no surprise that this story is considered one of his masterpieces. Poe carefully chooses his vocabulary, making each word create a dark and spooky image. Through exposition, Poe spends a great deal at describing the surroundings through the narrator. Also, Poe uses symbolism to his advantage by creating a house that mirrors a main character, Roderick Usher. Edgar Allen Poe uses imagery to further the plot, of The Fall of the House of Usher by utilizing these three avenues; vocabulary, exposition, and symbolism.

In the first paragraph alone, the reader has entered a world full of doom and despair. Poe uses words to paint a picture such as in the first sentence, “During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in autumn…” paints a portrait of cold and despair as indicated by the cold of autumn and using the word “soundless” indicates that he is alone. While some may think that Poe’s word choice may seem too overdone and cartoon-like, Maurice Beebe of the University of California Press talks about how this vocabulary is needed to create a classic Poe universe. J. O. Baily of the University of North Carolina writes, “Poe intended the story to do what it does, to arouse a sense of unearthly terror that springs from a vague source, hinted and mysterious.” This is all found within Poe’s vocabulary. Poe uses dark words such as “phantasmagoric” meaning a shifting series of phantasms, illusions, or deceptive appearances, as in a dream or as created by the imagination, and not found in everyday language.

Poe spends a great deal of time describing the House of Usher, but does he spend too much time? The answer is no if you are thinking in terms of him building exposition. Exposition is defined by DiYanni as “where plot begins and provides background information we need to make sense of the action, that describes the setting,...
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