The story begins with an unnamed narrator approaching a large and dreary-looking estate. As he approaches on horseback, he muses on the images before him, the darkness of the house, the oppressiveness of the clouds above, the eye-like windows, the ragged fissure in the side of the house, the fungi on the walls, and the reflection of it all in a nearby lake. He notes that some parts of the house are crumbling and other parts are not.
He sits astride his horse, thinking about the letter he received that initiated his trip and feeling uneasy about the upcoming visit. He remembers happier times he has had with his friend, Roderick, but now, in the face of the present gloomy surroundings, these seem a distant past. Looking at the house, he makes the connection between the family mansion and the family line, both called The House of Usher (a pun on the word "house" having two different meanings). Roderick and his twin sister, Madeline, are the last members of the family line.
The narrator feels as though he is dreaming, as though these visions were "the after-dream of a reveller upon opium." This foreshadows Roderick's behavior later, when the two men meet. He is puzzled by questions about the impending visit that have no answer. "What was itI paused to thinkwhat was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? It was a mystery all insoluable."
He enters the house and a valet shows him to Roderick's reading room. Roderick is lying on a sofa, but arises to greet him. He looks pale and cadaverous. They exchange greetings, but Roderick's voice is unsteady and feeble. His demeanor seems more that of one suffering from drunkenness or from the use of opium. Roderick wants his friend to comfort him and share his last days with him. He says he has "suffered much from a morbid acuteness of the senses." Only the most gentle stimulus could be endured, no hard food, loud music, strong odors, or bright lights. Only "peculiar sounds, and those...
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