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PPHS English 332
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe is considered a Dark Romanticist because of his poems and short stories centered around the ideas of evil human nature, darkness, and death: death of the individual, but also death of the mind and soul. Poe has written many short stories, mysteries, and poems, including The Tell-Tale Heart, The Raven, Eldorado, and The Fall of the House of Usher. The Fall of the House of Usher, a short story, is the tragic tale of two siblings and a childhood friend, their struggles, dependence, and eventually, their death. Every paragraph of the story contains examples of Dark Romanticism and Romanticism alike. Poe's writing not only is an perfect example of Dark Romanticism, it is also an entrance into the thoughts of Edgar Allan Poe himself.
The story takes place in the Mansion of the Ushers, an old and dying mansion surrounded by bleak and dark surroundings, and giving a first impression of gloom. "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" (Poe). This represents Dark Romanticism, because the setting is an immediate wave of darkness. Plus, Poe uses nature, a common object in Romanticism in general, to give us the tone and sense of darkness and gloom (Dark). As the childhood friend walks into the decaying mansion, he is greeted by his melancholy friend, Roderick Usher. He is a dark man of intellect, with a pale complexion, and an air of sternness (Poe). His sister Madeline is considered as the sense of the story, the taste, the smell, the seeing, and the smell (Poe). When the friend comes, Roderick and Madeline have very strange illnesses, and Roderick is in need of mental help. His friend takes care of him, reading, talking, and playing instruments, and this seems to help. But one day, Roderick tells him that his sister has died, and this death is another example of Dark Romanticism. They entomb the body in a vault, but after a week, Roderick seems haunted and has lost his mind. The friend nervous for Roderick goes to him to try to comfort him, and he hears a terrifying thing.
Roderick, a state of mental deterioration, tells his friend that he has entombed his sister alive, meaning he murdered her. The creeks and noises of the nights when neither could sleep, were the sounds of Madeline trying to escape from her casket and the vault, and now she is outside the door (Poe). "It was the work of the rushing gust - but then without those doors there did stand the lofty and enshrouded figure of the lady Madeline of Usher. There was blood upon her white robes, and the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her emaciated frame. For a moment she remained trembling and reeling to and fro upon the threshold - 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" (Poe). The revenge of the sister, and the surroundings of the event are yet another example of Dark Romanticism. The friend escapes and as he looks back, "there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind - the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight - my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder - there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters - and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the 'House of Usher'" (Poe).
The overall meaning of this story is embedded in the plot. The two main characters are twins, one with intellect, and one with senses. They can be considered one individual since they are so similar. As they kill each other, they are both in a state of mental deterioration, meaning that as the soul and mind die, the individual dies. However, it also has another meaning. The mansion collapsed after Madeline and Roderick killed each other. This shows that when members of a family fight amongst each other, the family is destined to failure, to be doomed. This idea is easily connected to Poe's life as his childhood was filled with memories of poverty, death, and a broken family. Since his parents died when he was young, he went to live with another family, where he did not get along with the father, and eventually getting kicked out. (Poe Museum). Since his family life had crumbled, he incorporated this into his story, where the family had also crumbled and died.
The story itself is similar in plot to many of Poe's story where death is the centerpiece of the poem or the story, such as the The Tell-Tale Heart or The Cask of Amontillado. It is also similar in how it represents Dark Romanticism with other stories. Nature and the setting of the story is dark, gloomy, and sets the tone of the story, like in many other of Poe's works (Dark).
The Fall of the House of Usher is an obvious Dark Romanticism novella. It has a dark and tragic theme also related to Dark Romanticism, and it follows the basic themes of Edgar Allan Poe's other poems and short stories. The darkness, death, and insanity of the family and house create the gloomy exaggerated flashback of Poe's own life, making it another apparent talented work of Dark Romanticism.
Poe, Edgar A. "The Fall of the House of Usher." (1839). The Literary Network. Jalic Inc., 2010. Web. 7 Dec. 2010.
"Poe's Life." Poe Museum. Poe Museum, 2010. Web. 8 Dec. 2010.
New World Encyclopedia//. New World Encyclopedia, 25 Feb. 2009. Web. 4 Jan. 2011. <
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American Modernism Project
American Romanticism Project
Aspects of American Romanticism
List of Romanticism Works
A Dream Within a Dream by Edgar Allan Poe
A Rainy Day by Nathaniel Hawthorne
A Walk at Sunset by William Cullen Bryant
Alone by Edgar Allan Poe
Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe
Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville
Dream-Land by Edgar Allan Poe
Eldorado by Edgar Allan Poe
Eleonora by Edgar Allan Poe
Forms of Heroes by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hop-Frog by Edgar Allan Poe
Ligeia by Edgar Allan Poe
Little Annie's Ramble by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Mr. Higginbotham's Catastrophe by Nathaniel Hawthorne
My Love by James Russell Lowell
My Low and Humble Home by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Paradise of Bachelors and the Tarturus of Maid by Herman Melville
Silence by Edgar Allan Poe
Spirits of the Dead by Edgar Allan Poe
The Ambitious Guest by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Balloon Hoax by Edgar Allan Poe
The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe
The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe
The Bridal Ballad by Edgar Allan Poe
The Canterbury Pilgrims by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
The City in the Sea by Edgar Allan Poe
The Coliseum by Edgar Allan Poe
The Darkened Mind by James Russell Lowell
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe
The Happiest Day by Edgar Allan Poe
The Haunted Palace by Edgar Allan Poe
The Lake by Edgar Allan Poe
The Last Leaf by Oliver Wendell Holmes
The Lightning Rod Man by Herman Melville
The Man of the Crowd by Edgar Allan Poe
The Martyr by Herman Melville
The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe
The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe
The Premature Burial by Edgar Allan Poe
The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe
The Sleeper by Edgar Allan Poe
The Spectacles by Edgar Allan Poe
The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether by Edgar Allan Poe
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
The Valley of Unrest by Edgar Allan Poe
To the River by Edgar Allan Poe
Ulalume by Edgar Allan Poe
What the Birds Said by John Greenleaf Whittier
William Wilson by Edgar Allan Poe
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