Fearing Fear Itself
Many students find themselves stressing the night before a big test, thinking about how they will fail the test. As a result, they spend more time worrying than actually studying for the test, causing them to, in turn, completely fail the test. In Edgar Allen Poe’s, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Roderick Usher does just this. He not only feels a sense of paranoia as mentioned above, but a sense of fear as well. Roderick becomes so overwhelmed by his setting and atmosphere that he too finds himself in a state of mental illness, which leads to his own downfall.
Poe begins his story of terror by speaking of how the exterior of the House of Usher looks. After the narrator receives a letter of request from Roderick, he travels to The House of Usher. Upon approaching the house, the narrator sees “the simple feature of the domain—upon the bleak walls—upon the 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” (Poe 1). This quote shows that the narrator first sees the house as perceived by the naked eye, not from an eye of a person knowing the story that lay behind it. Details such as “rank,” “utter depression,” and “no earthly sensation” foreshadow the lifestyle of Roderick and his sister, Madeline. Living in a house such as this one could only add to the gloom of one’s life, just as it adds to Roderick’s life. After overlooking his first impression of the house, the narrator “scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building” (Poe 2). He saw that “its principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity” (Poe 2) with “discoloration of ages” (Poe 2). While all of the quotes above display what atmosphere the story occurs in, the second set of quotes, found on page two of the story, show exactly how the house appears. The description of the house this time shows that the house is ancient and discolored from...
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