Criticism of The Fall of the House of Usher

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Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most controversial writers in America. Besides, the critical studies have not succeeded in resolving the originally misrepresented myth of Poe. Research has been conducted by most scholars, but the true Poe has remained mysterious and inscrutable. Besides, most of the experts have differed in assessing Edgar’s works virtues, and the views have varied from a tribute to complete discharge. Edgar’s work, The Fall of the House of Usher has earned deviating opinions as well as conflict analyses; moreover, Poe’s work is one of the most terrifying tales.

Poe uses “dark” and “decay” with the aim of describing the setting and this gives the story the depressing mood that rules the story. The narrator refers to oppression and he combines with the allusions to dreaming. Besides, the author has succeeded in transferring the reader to the dark atmosphere and a feeling of oppression that is suitable for the horrendous plot of the story. As a modern reader, one can note that the story is a cliché horror tale. The appearance of Lady Madeline in her bloody white robes may not seem frightening; besides, the image seems to linger the reader’s mind to return later; the story that has this effect can be termed as a successful horror story. The story seems uncertain due to the different and contradictory interpretations in the tale.

Poe is a critic and a writer and he seems to be aware of the machinery of the gothic and his work is an authentic catalog of devices from the haunted mansion genre. Poe tends to use conventions of the form because he fails to entrust himself to a cogent, mystical and figurative reading of the tale. The narrator has been portrayed as a doubter that tries to describe everything rationally and he is vulnerable to unexplained anxieties and the undefined intuitions. Based on the writer’s description, the house tends to resemble a giant face that may seem to hold the decayed building together and this tends to threaten to rip apart. The narrator seems horrified when he looks into the tarn and he views the house as an inverted reflection in the black water. The narrator has introduced three essential elements, and these include the subjective reactions of the narrator, general uneasiness and ending the complete hysteria.

The narrator meets his old friend and death-life paradox is suggested. Furthermore, the description tends to reflect the house’s exterior. Poe does not abandon the possibility that Usher’s trait and fate can be described in a natural manner. Usher’s behavior seems violent and erratic and he seems to be depressed by the contemporary clinical standards. Usher has been portrayed as an n artist and this, in turn, resolves most questions about his personality. The comprehensive catalog of the artistic actions tends to seem digressive in terms of Poe’s rigid “single-effect theory.” Usher’s imaginative ventures conform to his rational qualities and the other side or perspective of the situation.

From the opening line to the end, Poe uses meticulous details to describe the setting of the story, which makes readers feel as if they are watching the story. In multiple ways, The Fall of the House of Usher manifests Poe at the pinnacle of his literary prowess. According to Bloom (1), Poe’s manipulation of nature and prudently organized structure lend an overwhelming force to the story which can be described as a “tale of terror.” The first five paragraphs of the story create a dark, frightening atmosphere that characterizes the ancestral mansion of the Ushers. Poe also describes his characters excellently, making them feel almost tangible. For instance, a reader can feel the ‘dark and tattered draperies’ conceptualize the ‘rising tempest’ or feel Usher’s ‘hair of more than web-like softness’. In consequence, Poe’s detailed writing style makes the story very effective and successfully engages the sense of the reader.

Moreover, Poe’s constant use of phrases like ‘dark’ and decay’ to refer to the setting accords to the story a profound gloomy mood that dictates the story. Most readers has long associated the melancholy Roderick Usher with Poe’s life experiences. May (93) asserts that the themes of the story: destructive division, family deterioration and morbid imagination closely mirrors Poe’s fragmented life. However, some critiques associate The Fall of the House of Usher with Poe’s literary progress. May argues that the story shows Poe’s preferences for reminiscent, “mystic” literature over the didactic allegory (96).

The two schools of thought continues to divide readers and helps explain diverse interpretations which the story continues to elicit. While a critique such as Wilbur (261) views the story as an exploration of the terrifying complexities of the human psyche, some scholars detect a more parodic note. The greatest controversy over the meaning of “Usher” is linked to the contestation about the reliability of the story anonymous narrator. While some readers views the narrator as a model of common sense, other readers advance a naïve aspect to this character. For instance, Bloom (1) asserts that the plot of the story was kept somewhat thin, but Poe’s development of characters makes the story an infallible psychological allegory whose impact is devastating.

Additionally, from a modernist perspective, it is easy to describe the plot of The Fall of the House of Usher as a cliché horror tale. Yet, this does not mean that Poe’s story is not successful. When reading the story, one is introduced to Lady Madeline in her bloody white robes, but the scene may not seem very frightening. However, the image might linger in a reader’s mind, but it later returns and haunt the reader later. At the apex of the story, Usher and Roderick hear an ominous clanking sound within the house. As the door opens, it reveals the emaciated, blood-spattered figure of Madeline, who had been buried alive. The scenes are the one that haunts most readers. A literature piece with this effect can precisely be described as a compelling horror story.

On another hand, The Fall of the House of Usher has a unique way of using repeated images to create unique themes. One of the themes that most critiques have focused on is the theme of dualism which is expressed in multiple parallel structures including the synergetic bond shared by Roderick and Madeline. Dualism also appears in the opening image of the mansion reflected in a dark tarn, as well as the metaphor of a mind infected with madness. Siva (2) uses examines how dualism serves as a catalyst to the fall of Usher. When a fierce storm rages outside, the anonymous narrator reads aloud to Usher from a medieval romance.

Incredibly, Madeline “resurrects” and appears to them, as Usher informs the narrator that Lady Madeline was buried alive. However, he coming back to live is grotesque since the enshrouded Madeline falls onto her brother, dragging him “to the floor a corpse, and a victim to the terrors he had anticipated.” As the two lay dead, the house begins to collapse, and the narrator manages to run out and narrowly escapes death. At the point the Usher house collapse, Poe effectively transfers to the reader the dark atmosphere and the feeling of repression ideal for the frightening plot of the story.

Despite the narration growing concentration and implication of the atmosphere, the story does not begin until almost more than a half of the narrative has been presented, and this tends to keep the reader. The style used in the narration is essential in conveying the message as well as keeping the reader. The story then quickens and this is essential. Suspense is evident and this makes the story lively.

In conclusion, The Fall of the House of Usher shows Poe’s ability to give a detailed description of characters and setting, the repressive mood he creates through his dazzling use of words, and the impression the story leaves in the minds of readers. However, the major divide among critiques of the story emerges from split created by mystic literature over the didactic allegory. Depending on the side that a reader takes, the interpretation of the story would be different from that of readers who take the opposite view. Further, Lady Madeline interaction with Roderick makes the story a cliché horror tale. Ultimately, the quality of literary work in “The Fall of the House of Usher” makes it not just another horror story, it is an artistic, literary piece.


Cite this paper

 Criticism of The Fall of the House of Usher. (2021, Jun 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/criticism-of-the-fall-of-the-house-of-usher/



Was there incest in the House of Usher?
There is no clear answer, and it is up to interpretation. Some people believe that there was incest between the siblings, while others believe that they were simply very close.
What is the problem in The Fall of the House of Usher?
The problem in The Fall of the House of Usher is that the house is falling apart and the family is too.
Who is to blame for The Fall of the House of Usher?
The Fall of the House of Usher is the story of a man named Roderick Usher and his descent into madness. Many believe that the blame for his downfall lies squarely on his shoulders.
Why is the narrator unreliable in the House of Usher?
The family is the basic unit of society. It is the first social institution that children learn and it is the foundation upon which all other social institutions are built.
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