In His Writing, Edgar Allan Poe Creates a Particularly American Gothic Sensibility.

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'In his writing, Edgar Allan Poe creates a particularly American Gothic sensibility.' Discuss, with reference to 'The Fall of the House of Usher'.

Creating an American Gothic sensibilty is an immense undertaking for any author, poet or playwright. One must make sure to include all of the vital ingredients in order to capture and tranfix the reader. A setting of a spine-chilling drafty old House, an immoral act of incest, doubling of characters and events, inconceivable supernatual and inexplicable occurances and an bone tingling atmosphere of gloom and terror are the must haves for a dish of gruesome gothic. Edgar Allen Poe has been referred to as a ‘master of creating atmosphere and detail’ ( Shanahan, 2012 ) and when it comes to creating an American Gothic text acute with a Gothic ambience and characteristics, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, can be seen as a faultless example.

Poe captures the reader’s attention and imprisons them into his stories with his elaborate descriptions and chilling settings. He creates a particular Gothic sensibilty by adopting certain American Gothic characteristics in his work. In ‘The Fall of the House of the Usher’, a definite American Gothic sensibilty is achieved by his use of doubling, gothic vocabulary, powerful setting and minute attention to detail. Poe also explores the ‘imaginative expression of fears and forbidden desires of Americans in his American Gothic text. American Gothic in the mid nineteeth century gave voice to suppressed groups and untalked about subjects such as incest. (Crow, 2009, 1) In this essay, these elements will be explored and discussed in order to understand how Poe excels in the creation of an exceptional Gothic understanding.

Grasping and comprehending the American Gothic injects life into the text and allows the reader to lose themselves in the words. Poe’s use of effective setting captures the reader on a supernatural level. In ‘The Fall of the House of the Usher’, the signature gothic setting of a Castle is adapted in order to facilitate the American Gothic style. The castle is replaced by a huge Mansion, that has been kept in the Usher family for centuries, the narrator comments on the wood-work which ‘has rotted for long years’. (Poe, 2004, 200) This old iconic house is used to create the Gothic sensibility. The title, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, can be referred to the family lineage of the Ushers or the actual house itself. In the text, the residence plays such a huge part in creating atmosphere and it has a huge influence on the visitor to the house, the narrator. The house almost acts as a character in itself. Like the family, it is of “an excessive antiquity” (Poe, 2004, 201), possessing a landscape that is overgrown and ragged which humanizes the building. It could almost be compared to an elderly man, unkept and tattered in his appearance. The inside of the house can be read in a certain way to develop this theory too. Roderick lives in the upstairs of the house which could be seen as the mind, (due to his mentally ill state, another American Gothic feature) and his twin sister is entombed below ground; the body (her situation of being buried alive coming to the fore ). As Kerri Pearson discusses in her paper, the narrator feels an air of anxiety as he draws closer to the residence for the first time, ‘there hung an atmosphere which had no affinity to the air of heaven…a pestilent and mystic vapour, dull sluggish, faintly discernible and leaden-hued’(Poe, 2004, 201). The building itself has an effect on the visitor, he has to ‘shake of a type of dream’ that has appears to have taken hold of him and this description allows the reader to believe that the house has encaptured him within only seconds of him taking in it presence. Pearson also describes how the narrator ‘reports a change in himself’ as he draws closer. (2009, 134) She discusses how he feels ‘unnerved’ and ‘depressed’ and almost regretful of visiting...
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