The Fall of the Usher House - Detailed Summary Character Analysis Themes Symbolism Imagery Allegory Questions

4 Ocak 2014 Cumartesi

The Fall of the House of Usher - Edgar Allan Poe


The story begins with the unnamed narrator arriving at the house of his friend, Roderick Usher, having received a letter from him in a distant part of the country complaining of an illness and asking for his help. Although Poe wrote this short story before the invention of modern psychological science, Roderick's condition can be described according to its terminology. It includes a form of sensory overload known as hyperesthesia (hypersensitivity to light, sounds, smells, and tastes), hypochondria (an excessive preoccupation or worry about having a serious illness), and acute anxiety. It is revealed that Roderick's twin sister, Madeline, is also ill and falls into cateleptic, deathlike trances. The narrator is impressed with Roderick's paintings, and attempts to cheer him by reading with him. Roderick tells the narrator that he believes the house he lives in to be alive. Roderick later informs the narrator that his sister has died and insists that she will be entombed for two weeks in a vault (family tomb) in the house before being permanently buried. The narrator helps Roderick put the body in the tomb, and he notes that Madeline has rosy cheeks, as some do after death. They inter her, but over the next week both Roderick and the narrator find themselves becoming increasingly agitated for no apparent reason. A storm begins. Roderick comes to the narrator's bedroom, which is situated directly above the vault, and throws open his window to the storm.
The narrator attempts to calm Roderick by reading aloud a novel. As the narrator reads of the knight's forcible entry into the dwelling, cracking and ripping sounds are heard somewhere in the house. When the dragon is described as shrieking as it dies, a shriek is heard, again within the house. As he relates the shield falling from off the wall, a reverberation, metallic and hollow, can be heard. Roderick becomes increasingly hysterical, and eventually exclaims that these sounds are being made by his sister, who was in fact alive when she was entombed and that Roderick Usher knew that she was alive. Roderick convinced him that she is dead and rushes to have her placed in the vault. When she wakes up, Madeline goes insane from being buried alive and breaks free with insanity-induced strength.  The bedroom door is then blown open to reveal Madeline standing there. She falls on her brother, and both land on the floor as corpses. The narrator then flees the house, and, as he does so, notices a flash of light causing him to look back upon the House of Usher, in time to watch it break in two, the fragments sinking into the tarn. The story shows us the decay of the Usher family with the house "dies" along with the two Usher siblings. Poe creates a sensation of claustrophobia in this story.

Character Analysis:

Roderick Usher

Roderick Usher is not well. While parts of his affliction seem to manifest themselves physically, in his overly-acute senses, his illness is primarily a mental one. While his sister is cataleptic and wasting away, Roderick is tormented by, to be quite honest, his own fear. By his own admission, he doesn’t so much fear any particular thing as he fears his own fear. And one day, he predicts, this affliction will kill him.
 “The Fall of the House of Usher” as a psychological tale posit that Roderick and Madeline are actually two halves of the same person: male/female, mental/physical, worldly/other-worldly, natural/supernatural. If this is true, we can see why Roderick cannot live while Madeline is dead, which explains why she comes back for him. Alternatively, if Roderick may have been intentionally speeding up his own death by burying Madeline early, making her burial something of a suicide attempt.
We can also think about the spooky connection that Roderick shares with his house. He tells the narrator that he thinks it is sentient or conscious, and that the house is largely responsible for his feeling so dark and gloomy. Many of his artistic compositions revolve around his house.  It might be that Roderick’s very identity has somehow meshed with his house, much the same way his identity might be shared with his sister Madeline. Madeline dies and so Roderick dies, too. Similarly, Roderick falls dead to the ground, and so does his house.



“The Fall of the House of Usher” is the story of a sick man whose fears manifest themselves through his supernatural, sentient family estate. The story explores both physical and mental illness, and the effect that such afflictions have on the people closest to those who are sick.


“Usher” explores a family so bizarre, so self-isolating, so removed from normalcy that their very existence has become eerie and supernatural. The bond between the featured brother and sister characters is intense and inexplicable. Their bond transcends even death. One interpretation of the tale is that the siblings are actually one person split in two; thus one is unable to survive without the other.


This story explores a family so isolated from the rest of the world that they’ve developed their own supernatural barriers to interacting with it. The House of Usher exists in its own reality, governed by its own rules and with no interest in others. Such extreme isolation forces the family members closer and closer to each other, again to a supernatural degree, and inexplicable to any outsider.

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory:

The Small Fissure, the house

The narrator observes a crack in the mansion upon his arrival to the Usher estate. Since he’s just mentioned that “The House of Usher” refers both to the family and the building, we should have an eye out for symbolic connections between the two. And indeed, we can see this small fissure as representative of a disruption in the unity of the family, more specifically, between Madeline and her brother. This is the disruption that ultimately tears the family – and the mansion – to pieces.


We’ve seen that art mirrors reality in this story, but there are several other cases of “doubling” or “reflection” going on. Starting off the story is the inverted reflection of the House of Usher in the tarn that lies before the house. You’ve also got the inverted dichotomy between Madeline and Usher, twins, but male/female, mental/physical, alive/dead. Dichotomy means a division between two opposing things.

The Fall of the House of Usher

1.What’s the relationship between the narrator and Roderick Usher?
2.How did the narrator feel himself when he looked up the house of Usher?
3.What’s Roderick Usher’s illness? How do you describe him physically and mentally?
4.What’s Mr. Usher’s theory about the house?
5.Why did Mr. Usher decide to keep his sister’s dead body in one of the vaults under the house?
6.How did Lady Madeleine escape from her coffin?
7.What happened to the Ushers at the end of the story?
8.Explain the relation between the Ushers and the house? What happened to the house at the end?

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