The narrator observes that the house seems to have absorbed an evil and diseased atmosphere from the decaying trees and murky ponds around it. He notes that although the house is decaying in places—individual stones are disintegrating, for example—the structure itself is fairly solid. There is only a small crack from the roof to the ground in the front of the building. He has come to the house because his friend Roderick sent him a letter earnestly requesting his company.
Orphaned at 2 years of age (father left his family in 1810, mother died a year later) - could have contributed to his writing of dark/depressing stories
Born January 19, 1809, in Boston - Gothic period of literature was from 1764 to 1840
He was a magazine editor, a poet, a short story writer, a critic, and a lecturer. He introduced the British horror story, or the Gothic genre, to American literature, along with the detective story, science fiction, and literary criticism.
After beginning his literary career as a poet and prose writer, he married his young cousin, Virginia Clemm (might explain why the Usher family is supposedly incest)
His father disappeared not long after the child’s birth, and, at the age of three, Poe watched his mother die of tuberculosis.
This extract develops the setting of the story (mainly the mansion)
Colour imagery - "Leaden-hued", "dull", "black oaken floor", "gray wall"
Symbolism - "Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior" symbolises the decline of the Usher family.
Personification - "Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light made their way through the trellised panes..."
Tautology - "Ebon blackness"
Anaphora - "While the objects around me–while the carvings of the ceilings, the sombre tapestries of the walls, the ebon blackness of the floors, and the phantasmagoric armorial trophies which rattled as I strode, were but matters to which, or to such as which, I had been accustomed from my infancy–while I hesitated not..."
Alliteration - "I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow"
Failure to Adapt
This is reflected by the house which symbolises the Usher family.
Interior: displays coats-of-arms and other things from the age of kings and castles.
Exterior: “Its principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity. The discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves."
"An atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven"
"Many books lay scattered about
, but failed to give any vitality to the scene."
"...of the constrained effort of the ennuye man of the world"
"Its principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity."
"Old wood-work which has rotted for long years..."
Usher - described as "ennuye" (definition: listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest; bored.) as a result of being cut off from the world in this mansion.
Narrator – Recounting his own experiences when he saw the house, shown by lots of use of I’s. “I thought..” “I rode..”
Usher – Seen from narrator’s point of view, appears mentally deteriorated
- Glad of narrator’s company (Reunion of old friend/lover?)
Place in the book
Dark atmosphere throughout extract.
House appears deteriorating, “barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction”
Poe, creates confusion between the living things and inanimate objects by doubling the physical house of Usher with the genetic family line of the Usher family, which he refers to as the house of Usher.
Before and just as narrator is entering the house, a reunion with his childhood friend, looking at his house from the outside. Dark atmosphere is beginning to be developed.
Structure / Style of Narrative
Descriptive writing – Cynical view on the house
The narrator describes himself and what he felt in this situation through his eyes putting the reader in the boat replacing the narrator. Immediately we feel an irrational fear upon viewing the huge, decrepit house.
Unnamed narrator written in 1st person
Use of ‘I’ throughout the extract put us in his position and what we feel
Makes his voice authentic
Poe creates a sensation of claustrophobia in this story. The narrator is mysteriously trapped by the lure of Roderick’s attraction, and he cannot escape until the house of Usher collapses completely.
Prior: The narrator arrives at the house and observes the surroundings.
Post: The character Madeline Usher is introduced.
Language Devices & Tone:
Set in the House of Usher, the state of the house parallels the state of Roderick Usher’s mind, it’s falling apart. The House of Usher also refers to both the house itself and the family living inside- the two are connected.
‘The odours of all flowers were oppressive’- the atmosphere is really heavy.
Narrative Structure & Style:
Imagery: ‘a nose of a delicate Hebrew model’ used to describe Roderick.
Contrast: Roderick is described as ‘vivacious and sullen’ at the same time.
Tone: The way the character is described gives the extract a heavy, sullen tone as he is obviously sick.
First person narrative
Structure: First describes the character, compares the past with the present. Then tells the reason why the narrator is at the scene. Then the narrator converses with Roderick Usher.
‘A cadaverousness of complexion’, ‘made up altogether a countenance not easily to be forgotten’- These quotes are descriptions of how Roderick used to be.
‘Ghastly pallor of the skin’, ‘the silken hair, too, had been suffered… wild gossamer texture.’
‘An excessive nervous agitation’- suffers from nerves and fear.
Roderick’s boyhood friend.
A reliable voice.
Shocked by the change in Roderick.
Born Jan 19, 1809- Boston, USA.
Died Oct 7, 1849- Baltimore, USA (Aged 40).
American poet, author, editor and literary critic.
Considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre.
One of the earliest American short story writers.
Death & Sickness
What if this extract was missing from the text?
Extract: page 9
The reader won’t know the state that Roderick Usher’s in therefore cannot understand why Roderick is acting the way he is.
The reader won’t know the relationship between the narrator and Roderick, therefore won’t know the point of the story.
1) Prior events:
-the unnamed narrator arrives at the House of Usher
-the house and the general atmosphere is described with frequent use of pathetic fallacy
-the narrator also starts to notice the hauntedness and spookiness of the house
-Madeline is buried secretly so that the physicians cannot reach her corpse
-narrator reads Mad Trist for Roderick to help calm him down but notices that the happenings in the story is happening in real life
-Madeline is found next to the door looking very ghostly
-Takes place in the house of Usher
-Dark & gloomy atmosphere
-Madeline is diseased “cataleptic” – “The disease of the lady Madeline had long baffled the skill of her physicians.”
-Roderick is “hopeless and frail” – cares for his “beloved sister”
-Something secretive about Madeline
Language devices and tone:
-Pathetic fallacy – “the gray walls and turrets” conveys the mood
-Foreshadowing to an unhappy/dissatisfying outcome
Structure and style of narrative:
-Inner thoughts within parenthesis
-Italicised words to show importance
-Capitalised words – “FEAR”
-Archaic language – “hitherto”
-Narrator is not fully aware of what is going on in the house in the beginning
-Rather opinionated instead of factual
Author’s bio/background + context:
-Edgar Allan Poe
-Story written in 1839
-Frequently connects his stories to other author’s literary works
-A story inside a story (e.g. Mad Trist)
-Wrote other horror/mysterious stories (e.g. The Black Cat)
- Sickness – Madeline has the physical sickness, Roderick has the mental/emotional sickness, his mental sickness of believing he is sick eventually leads him to bury his sister prematurely, resulting in his death, when she comes back from the grave. The vocabulary used also portray an atmosphere of sickness –malady, cataleptically, melancholy, destroyer, emaciated, illness.
- Helplessness with the given situation – “(him the hopeless and the frail)”
- Fear – “I feel the period will sooner or later arrive when I must abandon life and reason together in some struggle with the grim phantasm, Fear.” – note, fear is capitalised.
Deeper question: What if this extract was missing form the text?
- Readers wont be informed of Madeline and Roderick’s illness
- “a settled apathy, a gradual wasting away of the person, and frequent though transient affections of a partially cataleptically character, were the usual diagnosis”
- “that the lady, at least while living, would be seen by me no more” – foreshadows premature burial
- Readers wont know that Roderick is scared of dying
, and that he knows death is coming, but he wont stop it. - “I feel the period will sooner or later arrive when I must abandon life and reason together in some struggle with the grim phantasm, Fear.”
- He (narrator) describes the house
- Roderick is psychologically ill, the narrator had received a letter from him and is keeping him company.
- We find out that Madeline is physically ill - catalepsy.
- The narrator and Roderick paint, read and play guitar.
- The narrator and Roderick buries Madeline’s body - didn’t want “medical men” to investigate.
- in the “House of Usher”
- a gloomy atmosphere
“radiation of gloom”
The use of words with negative connotations creates the gloomy and ambiguous atmosphere.
Structure/Style of Narrative
- first person narration
- this extract focuses on the art of Roderick Usher and the Usher household
Roderick as a painter
Description of his one painting (tunnel)
Description of his music (guitar playing)
- Portrayed as artistic, yet his mind is unstable (mental illness)
- Musical, yet his hearing is deteriorating - “morbid condition of the auditory nerve”
- Ironic that he is portrayed as smart yet he is a “hypochondriac” - overthinking.
- Compared to Von Weber, ironic that he is a ‘romantic’ composer.
- Compared to Fuseli, allusion as Fuseli was famous for his nightmare imagery
“unceasing radiation of gloom” - paradox “radiation” suggests warmth yet “gloom” has negative connotations to contradict that. Never ending, giving the sense that the House of Usher had always been set up for doom, its whole atmosphere and setting radiates the darkness from within.
“House of Usher” - the use of the proper noun shows the house as an important and significant character of the story.
“distempered ideality” - oxymoron, opposite of perfection and disturbance parallels to Usher’s psychological state - the want for perfection yet disturbed.
“flood of intense rays rolled throughout, and bathed the whole in a ghastly and inappropriate splendour” - paradox, personification describing light as “ghastly”, “rolled throughout” implies its strength and force which is uncontrollable creating this gloomy atmosphere which cannot be stopped. “inappropriate splendour” is an oxymoron and shows the doubling in the story and the use of opposites shows uncertainty and twisting of the mind - causes confusion.
“vault or tunnel... no torch, or other artificial source of light” - imagery of tunnel showing confinement and narrowness. The fact that there is no light shows lack of sense in direction, hope and emphasises the gloom in the story.
"the wild air" contradicts a " last waltz" which is soft - the use of contradictions in the extract can represent the twisting of the mind, the contradictory statements lacks sense suggesting the signs of madness.
- 1st person narration
- Tense is unclear - shows vagueness and ambiguity, adds to mysteriousness
- Perspective relates to ‘Door in the Wall’ - Memory of childhood friend
- Edgar Allan Poe
- January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849
- Author, poet, literary critic
- Orphaned young when his mother died shortly after his father abandoned the family.
- Adopted by John and Frances Allan
- Married VirginiaClemm, his 13-year-old cousin in 1835
- Wife died in 1847 of tuberculosis.
- Cause of his death is unknown and has been variously attributed to alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide and tuberculosis.
is shown through the character of Roderick, the effects of psychological disturbance. Through Roderick’s view on art and his own art, readers can work out what his mind is like (e.g. the tunnel painting is significant as it shows confinement of the mind) and the references to artists and composers of the Gothic era emphasises the effect of the mental disturbance.
is shown through the use of negative connotations to create a dark atmosphere. The idea that the Usher family is in a direct line shows their isolation from the rest of society. This also links to the psychological disturbance of Roderick.
is explored throughout this story as the ambiguity and vagueness created with the language makes readers “question” the events of this story. The strange events that occur can be seen through the language used in the story and this extract with the contradictions showing not only signs of madness but the lack of sense and causes confusion among readers.
The Fall of the House of Usher: Extract pg 11-12
The extract appears during the period of time when the narrator is attempting to “alleviate the melancholy” of Roderick. The poem is just after the narrator discussing the “phantasmagoric conceptions” of Roderick – delving into the nature of his melancholic illness. In terms of structure, the extract contributes to the middle section of the story – a gradual build up in tension to the climactic ending.
The setting of this poem is a medieval palace and the lands surrounding it. The poem talks about “valleys”, and a “palace”. “Banners” indicate the time period, as well as “the olden/ Time long ago”. “ramparts” make it clear that the palace is some sort of castle (symbolic of a fortress against evil), whilst the mention of “lute’s” show more medieval gear.
The atmosphere of the extract comes in two parts – initially it is bright, happy, and vivacious. For example: “greenest of our valleys... good angels...fair...Radiant...yellow, glorious, golden...gentle...sweet”. The poem is filled with joyous words
, with positive connotations. Secondarily, it is dark and sinister – after “evil things” invade the palace. “evil...sorrow...Assailed...mourn...desolate...entombed...discordant... ghastly...pale...hideous” – words filled with negative connotations, making the atmosphere gloomy and tense.
Language devices and tone in this extract are widely varied. Metaphors (“robes of sorrow”) are used, as well as similes (“like a rapid ghastly river”) are used. Alliteration is extensive (“glorious, golden”, “float and flow”), as well as other forms of imagery are used. Juxtaposition is seen in the final line – “laugh – but smile no more”, creating an uneasy and tense atmosphere. The entire poem is an extended metaphor – for both the house of Usher, and Roderick himself. This is shown numerous times throughout the extract – “reared its head”, “Banners yellow, glorious, golden” – blond hair, “luminous windows saw” – eyes, “pearl and ruby” – teeth and lips, “palace door” – mouth. This metaphor is used to describe his illness – later on his eyes (originally “luminous windows”) are seen to be “red-litten windows”, gruesome and sinister.
The poem is structured in six regular eight line stanzas, with a regular rhyme scheme (ABABCDCD). There is a regular rhythm, and the style of narrative is flowing and poetic. Obscure sentence structures are used in order to preserve the regular rhyme and rhythm.
Characterisation is also seen, via the extended metaphor mentioned earlier. Roderick is seen to decay and decline, having been “Assailed” by “evil things, in robes of sorrow”. His death is foreshadowed, in the fifth stanza – “never morrow/ Shall dawn upon him”. This line essentially states that Roderick (or the king in the poem) shall not live to see tomorrow, a clear foreshadowing of Roderick’s death. The decline of the house is also seen in the fifth stanza – “the glory/ That blushed and bloomed/ Is but a dim-remembered story/ Of the old time entombed”. This makes it clear that the glorious past days of the House of Usher are now “dim-remembered”, no longer applicable to the present. The word “entombed” also foreshadows Madeline’s fate. The travellers also, are characterised (they represent outsiders). Where once they “saw/ Spirits moving musically”, now they “see/ Vast forms that move fantastically/ To a discordant melody”. Once again, it is clear that the House of Usher is fallen – both from within, and from the point of view of outsiders.
The narrative voice in the poem is unclear
, but most likely a third person narrative. This allows for the exploration of the past and present events, from an unbiased point of view.
The major theme presented in this extract is the decaying of the mind. Represented by the fall of the palace mentioned in the story, the poem clearly parallels both the “House of Usher” (hereditary line), and the “House of Usher” (physical mansion). This decay also applies to Roderick, and it is made clear by this symbolism that his mind has been assailed by “evil things”, and that they have all but destroyed his previously sane mind. Now a “discordant melody” defines him, and he can laugh but not smile, trapped in the melancholy sickness of the mind.
Edgar Allan Poe
Born in 1809 in Boston, he was a short story writer, poet, critic and editor. He is famous for his cultivation of mystery and macabre. Poe was the son of the British actress, Elizabeth Arnold Poe, and actor, David Poe Jr. his mother died when he was two years old and was taken into the care of his godfather in Richmond. He was educated in Scotland and England and attended the University of Virginia, but because of his extreme gambling losses at the university he was not allowed to continue his study there. He went back to Richmond where he met Elmira Royster and they got engaged. But it was called off and he moved to Boston, where because of poverty he was forced to join the army. When his foster mother died his godfather paid for his release from the army and enrolled him in the U.S. military academy but was expelled as he attended none of his classes. He then moved to New York and published a volume of poems. Then he moved to Baltimore where he began to write stories and married his 13 year old cousin Virginia Clemm. He was dismissed from his job in Baltimore for drinking and so went to New York. People believed Poe to be a drug addict but according to a medical testimony he had a brain lesion. Virginia died in 1847 and Poe died in 1849 in Baltimore and was buried in Baltimore’s Westminster churchyard.
Starts as a light, happy mood/atmosphere with warm and bright imagery.
Develops into a darker, more sinister setting with darkened weather emerging as the palace crumbles
Setting in this palace displays parallels between the palace and “The House of Usher”
Mysterious and unexplainable. The colour black is portrayed in the skies and surrounding foliage.
LANGUAGE DEVICES AND TONE:
Repetition - “flowing, flowing, flowing”
Alliteration - “glorious, golden”, “blushed and boomed”
Rhyme - “golden…olden” , “glowing…flowing”
Simile- “like a rapid ghastly river”
Personification- “ A troop of echoes who’s sweet duty was but to sing”,“ the glory that blushed” , “reared its head”
Parallel structure- “evil things” , “entombed”
The tone matches (parallels) with the setting
- begins melodious, clam and soft etc… “In the greenest of our valleys”
- Ends mournful, melancholy etc… “And laugh – but smile no more.”
The entire poem is an extended metaphor for Roderick’s state of mind. A once strong and supportive mind now begins to waste away and significantly weaken. Parallel structures are seen between the palace and Roderick’s mind “And, round about his home, the glory, That blushed and bloomed, Is but a dim-remembered story, Of the old time entombed.”
The palace, like the house in the story is personified “stately palace – Radiant palace – reared its head” this allows it to become its own character. It is dark and mysterious and has lived out its golden years slowly nearing its inevitable “entombment”.
Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery
He is credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.
He was born as Edgar Poe in Boston, Massachusetts; he was orphaned young when his mother died. Poe was taken in by John and Frances Allan, of Richmond, Virginia, but they never formally adopted him. He attended the University of Virginia for one semester but left due to lack of money. After enlisting in the Army and later failing as an officer's cadet at West Point, Poe parted ways with the Allan’. His publishing career began humbly, with an anonymous collection of poems, Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827), credited only to "a Bostonian".
Poe switched his focus to prose and spent the next several years working for literary journals and periodicals, becoming known for his own style of literary criticism. His work forced him to move between several cities, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City. In Baltimore in 1835, he married Virginia Clemm, his 13-year-old cousin. In January 1845 Poe published his poem "The Raven" to instant success. His wife died of tuberculosis two years after its publication. He began planning to produce his own journal, The Penn (later renamed The Stylus, though he died before it could be produced. On October 7, 1849, at age 40, Poe died in Baltimore; the cause of his death is unknown and has been variously attributed to alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and other agents.
“wild ritual” is oxymoronic, wild – disorganised, chaotic ,whereas ritual – organised, systematic. Reflects Roderick’s state of mind – he is losing control (wild) yet when it comes to the funeral he is very organised and has it all planned out.
“Madeline is no more” euphemism – Roderick is finding Madeline’s death hard to deal with.
Roderick is paranoid about everything, at this particular point about what people will do with Madeline’s corpse “obstrusive and eager inquiries on the part of her medical men and of the remote and exposed situation of the burial ground of the family”.
The whole story is full of pathetic fallacy and in this part to emphasise Roderick and the narrators sadness and grieving “oppressive atmosphere” “small damp” “gloomy”.
The “grating sound as it moved upon its hinges” reflects Roderick’s frame of mind as it is hanging on by its hinges and could snap at any point.
The sensation of claustrophobia that is shown throughout the whole story is shown again by the fact they’re in a vault/ tome, they are trapped, unable to escape their destiny of destruction “the vault which we placed it” “we two alone bore it to its rest” – it’s a very large house yet there are only two people in it, they are isolate.
“the deceased and himself had been twins” – motif of doubling, Roderick and Madeline are two halves of a whole, one is physically ill the other mentally ill together the whole entire Usher family is falling apart.
Foreshadowing of Madeline coming back “faint blush upon the bosom and face” “suspiciously lingering smile” seeing as Roderick was the one who told everyone of her death maybe in his insanity had her buried alive to get rid of her knowing that only one survives in each generation of the Usher family which because of him burying her alive causes his death.
There is also foreshadowing of the house falling down in reflection to Roderick’s state of mind again “powder or some other highly combustible substance” – the house like Roderick’s mind is fragile and delicate and as it is ‘highly combustible’ the slightest thing could bring it all down.
Prior events - Madeline was buried alive
- Roderick just read the poem “The Haunted Palace”
- Roderick finds it difficult to sleep as well as the narrator so to pass the night, the narrator reads “Mad Trist” by Sir Launcelot Canning.
Halfway through the story, the narrator paused as he heard an unusual sound.
Setting – “the seventh or eighth day after the placing of the lady Madeline within the donjon.”
- It was late at night
- It was a story night “It was, indeed, a tempestuous yet sternly beautiful night.”
- The overall atmosphere of the whole story is dark and mysterious. However, in this passage, the darkness of the atmosphere increases due to the storm thus proclaiming the increasing psychological disturbance of the characters.
Language Devices – alliteration – “one occasional…”
- “adjoining staircases arrested my attention…”
- repetition – “while the hours waned and waned away”
- “upon my very heart… upon the pillows…”
- personification – “[the house]…tortured into motion by the breath of a rising tempest.”
- “It was no wonder that his condition terrified – that it infected me. I felt creeping upon me.”
- “[the wind] life-like velocity…”
- oxymoron – “sternly beautiful.”
- negation - “I know not why…I know not whence…” -> emphasises how off-balance and disconcerted the narrator is due to the environment and the situation. This expresses his fright for the unknown.
Structure – pattern – The way the narrator speaks has a pattern
- He says what he is doing then what he feels about it (through imagery)
– the narrator is now frightened. He is disturbed by the events that have occurred.
Roderick Usher is also terrified so it parallels the narrator’s feelings. This is because they are close friends.
Their feelings are personified by the house.
– first person perspective
uses past tense
- Uses personal pronouns. -> This helps express his feelings and thoughts.
-> Readers can see his perspective and views
-> The narrator is an outsider and so are the readers. This helps them relate to the narrator.
Madness – In this passage, the narrator and Roderick have become more and more anxious and frightened due to the recent burial of Madeline. This is personified by the storm occurring that night and the house which seemed to be darker that particular evening.
The narrator visits Roderick in his time of need as it was explained that they were boyhood friends. Throughout this passage, it can be seen that the narrator is drawn into Roderick’s twisted world as he also becomes spiritually disturbed.
Where in the extract:
Page 15, it’s nearly at the end of the story.
The narrator has just come up into the upper areas of the vault.
Imagery: “huge,” “agitated.”
Allusion: reference to external context. “Mad Trist of Sir Lancelet Canning” and “Ethelred, the hero of the Trist.
Adjectives/adverbs: “huge” and “agitated”
Anaphora: “still increasing storm”
Storm-the turbulent emotions experienced by the characters.
“gaseous exhalation… enshrouded”
Edgar Allan Poe was born in, 1809.
After being orphaned at age two, he was taken into the home of a childless couple
He studied at private schools, attended the University of Virginia and then us military academy. He did not complete studies at either schools, his instability in childhood had a negative impact on the rest of his life. He battled with drinking problems, and this relates to the character in the book as they have not only physical difficulties but emotional ones too. The drinking problem along with death of people close to him like his wife increased some of his difficulties.
In the house of Usher-In Roderick’s room
Structure + Style of Narrative
Present – Retelling a story (past)
Long Sentence structure
Past vs. Present
Fantasy vs. Reality
Section: Page 17 (the end)
Context: The end of the story, this symbolically ties in with the end of the usher house, literally and metaphorically. This gothic tale leads the climax of the story to the event given to the title. A sense of claustrophobia is defeated.
Setting: In Roderick Usher’s Room- the House of Usher.
Atmosphere: Paranormal/ terror/ “superhuman energy”
Language Devices: Personification: “The storm was still abroad in all its wrath” & “a fierce breath of the whirlwind”. Violent imagery: “blood-red moon”. Extended use of blood and death: “blood-red”, “blood”, “corpse”. Imagery of defeat and end: “fall of the house of usher”, “the floor a corpse”, “the vast house and its shadows were alone”, “the mighty walls rushing asunder”. Personification: “voice of a thousand waters”.
Characterisation: The narrator is observing strange events that occur within the claustrophobic and confined household. The house is a character too- Due to the structure of the house, characters are unable to act freely within it and within this passage it is proven that the house has completed its mission, therefore leading to its collapse. Roderick is horrified, state of terror and is mentally ill, this gives the connection with Madeline of being physically ill who is inhuman and dead.