The Fall of the House of Usher Report



1. The Fall of the House of Usher - Final English Report

           “The Fall of the House of Usher,” a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe and published in the September of 1839, is a tale of tragedy and horror taking place in the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century. This story is focused on the terror of the narrator as he is forced to watch his childhood friend, Roderick Usher, lose his twin sister and thus his already-dwindling sanity. It not only shows the fragile mental state of humankind and how other portions of their mentality and personality as well as events going on around them will add to the crushing weight threatening to crack their minds at any given moment.

            Roderick Usher was already going insane from the beginning of the story – “The writer spoke of acute bodily illness—of a mental disorder which oppressed him—and of an earnest desire to see me, as his best and indeed his only personal friend . . .” (p. 2). Usher was completely aware that he was not quite right, which is the reason he called upon the narrator to visit him, as they played together as boys. This sort of adds to the eerie element, considering much of the time the mentally ill are not aware of their slow migration into insanity; it shows that Usher is actually quite the brilliant man, albeit one with a weak mind. Indeed, often the theme of Gothic writing is the slow descent of a well-educated and aware individual into the dark recesses of his or her own mind; because of the way it is represented in media as well as the setting of the story, it often drives the reader to feel wary of the character.

            Furthermore, the sanity of Roderick Usher was broken even further when his sister Lady Madeline apparently died. He lost interest in many of his hobbies and seemed even more afraid – “His ordinary manner had vanished. His ordinary occupations were neglected or forgotten. He roamed from chamber to chamber with hurried, unequal, and objectless step. The pallor of his countenance had assumed, if possible, a more ghastly hue—but the luminousness of his eye had utterly gone out. The once occasional huskiness of his tone was heard no more; and a tremulous quaver, as if of extreme terror, habitually characterized his utterance . . .” (p. 12). In addition, these are often symptoms of insanity or a mental illness like schizophrenia; loss of interest in things that would normally keep them happy and occupied, a tendency to wander, frequent paranoia, et cetera. The reader can assume that Usher has not completely gone over the deep end, as he is perfectly capable of operating and making plans for Madeline’s entombment; however, sharp grief seems to set in shortly after Madeline’s casket is nailed shut, and he begins to act off. It appears that the death of his beloved sister has added to his sanity’s disappearing act. The event of sanity being removed by the death of a loved one is also present in several other portions of the media, such as Leland Palmer in the television show Twin Peaks after the murder of his daughter Laura Palmer.

            Finally, when the “corpse” of Lady Madeline makes an appearance in the library during a violent storm, Usher completely loses his grip on the safe stronghold of sanity and promptly drops dead when she collapses upon him – “. . . then, with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the person of her brother, and in her violent and now final death-agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse, and a victim to the terrors he had anticipated.” (p. 25). It is rather understandable that he had such a reaction to seeing his sister covered in blood and wavering in the doorway, for she had been pronounced dead by two doctors and already nailed into her tomb. It can be assumed that the fright positively snapped his sanity and the impact to the ground with his sister’s dead weight crushing him is what killed him.

            In conclusion, the fragile mental state of a human being – especially that of the mentally ill – can be negatively impacted greatly by events such as the death of a loved one or an extreme fright. For example, should someone with Usher’s condition be forced to suffer through knowing he’s not doing too well and then the death of one of the only people he cares about would have to go through an obscene amount of tension and fear as well as the illness. As if that wasn’t bad enough, his sister apparently rises from the dead to torment him in his last minutes of life. In all, “The Fall of the House of Usher” is a startlingly accurate portrayal of the human mindset set in an eerie part of New England that is bound to unsettle nearly any reader.

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