Edgar Allen Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher and «the single effect»
Edgar Allen Poe presents a relatively precise definition of what he considers to be a succesfull short story. He emphasizes the importance of creating «a certain unique or single effect», as written in his «Review of Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales», in an attempt to achieve a unique or single emotional effect on the reader. Poe deliberately seeks to catch the reader's mind in a certain way and make a specific impression in the reader's reaction to the story. I believe his short story The Fall of the House of Usher will provide an excellent example of his theory of «the single effect». But how does Allan Poe write his short story according to this theory? In this paper I will illustrate and discuss the aesthetics of Allan Poe's «single effect» used in The Fall of the House of Usher .
From the very beginning Poe clearly sets a certain mood in The Fall of the House of the Usher. Through the first-person narrator of the story, Poe gives us deep mirthless descriptions of how the «I» perceive his surroundings and also how these surroundings make him feel. The short story's opening sentence underlines Poe's eager to get us in the right mood from the start: «During the whole of a dull, dark and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher» (p. 689). From the very beginning we take part in the narrator's experience with the house, and are instantly affected by the narrators superstitious and gloomy concerns about the antique mansion. The narrator, being our only source to what is going on, becomes someone of whom we can identify. Poe's sizable and continous use of dark and «negative» adjectives helps drag the reader into the right state of mind...
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