Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher"

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Haley, Vanessa. “Edgar Allan Poe, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher.’” Instructor’s Manual: FICTIONS. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1993. 159-161.

Poe was obsessed with the connection between the organic and inorganic worlds, his gothic tales often revealing, just under the surface of decay and horror, a psychological dimension. The first person narrator, summoned to aid a boyhood friend, Roderick Usher, in his remote dilapidated mansion, witnesses as well the disintegration of Usher’s psyche. Thus, the house becomes an extended metaphor for the human mind, and the narrator’s journey is an inward one. The story’s increasing focus on images of decay, moreover, reaches a climax when the two Ushers die and the “whole psychic being of which the house is the outward manifestation [is destroyed’” (Davidson 197). The inconsistencies or enigmas in the story predispose us to the story’s allegorical tenor. The narrator himself sets up an analytical tone when , in “contemplation” of the House of Usher, he remarks on the “insufferable gloom” pervading his spirit, a gloom comparable to “an afterdream of the reveler upon opium.” Furthermore, he maintains, considering the fact that such simple objects can affect us so strongly, the “analysis of this power lies among considerations beyond our depth.” To alter his perception of the house, he looks at its reflection in a lake, inverting the image. Thus, begins the notion of inversion or looking within for explanations to the superfluous attention to external detail in the story.

The body-mind interrelationship, according to critic Edward H. Davidson, is evidenced in Poe’s pictorial methods, “as though external objects and configurations of the material world could themselves assume a psychic dimension” (198). We know we are traveling inward as the story moves spatially from the exterior view of the house, to its interior, to its vaults (the unconscious), and back...
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