GothicGenre in “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe
In1839, Edgar Allan Poe wrote one of the greatest stories in thehistory, and called it "The Fall of the House of Usher."The image of gothic which fills Usher exhibits a literature stylethat surfaced in the late 18th century and flourished in the earlierdecades of the 19th century. Despite the fact that Edgar referred tothe story as well as his other stories as being arabesque, some ofthem are considered to be of gothic nature. A gothic element is thatwhich is related to gruesome or some other dark elements. The storyhas various theatrics, which are supernatural and though his worksreceived a lot of criticism, Edgar continues to exhibit the aspect of"art for the sake of art," which translates to the factthat a story should be free of political, moral or social teachings.It is worth to note that ‘The Fall of the House of Usher” isEdgar’s typical form of short stories because it shows a narratorwho is put into a situation which is psychologically intense, andsome forces link up in a bid to make one of the characters to be mad.Thisessay aims at discussing the gothic genre in “TheFall of the House of Usher”,and all the gothic elements presented in the story such as vagueness,a decaying manor, claustrophobia, supernatural acts, and weirdsounds, raging sounds and doubling.
Elementsof a Gothic Story
Fora story to be a gothic one, it has to be rife with some elements. Forinstance, it has to have some features that define the gothic genrethe items include invoking of fear, dark secrets, doubling,disruptions which are unexpected, vagueness, an atmosphere which isoppressive and some ancient houses. Notably, all these elements existthroughout Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and that iswhy the story is classified as being of gothic nature.
Useof Mystery and Raging Storms
Notably,the initial stages of the story are mostly inclined towards thedevelopment of a weird sensation. For instance, the old decayinghouse is moldy and ghostly, and the moat in the environment seems tobe stagnant (Poe 5). The view outside the castle shows a ragingstorm, and it is even worse inside the house, where there are roomswhich spark mystery. For instance, the rooms of the windows of therooms whisk open suddenly, candles are mysteriously blown out,moaning and creaking sounds are heard, and Lady Madeline`s livingcorpse is shown. There is an instance when Usher is seen at the doorof the narrator and asks the narrator is he has not seen “it."Usher does not necessarily specify what the "it”in his sentence is, but he goes ahead to open the windows which showa raging storm is outside. It was at night, they were in a decayinghouse, there was a storm outside, and Roderick’s heart was alsoexperiencing a raging storm (Poe 15). These are the essentialfeatures which are witnessed mostly in modern gothic or horror films.
Useof Darkness or Semi-darkness
Poecreates a sense of insufferable gloom in the whole setting. BecauseUsher thinks that the narrator is his friend, he writes a letterwhich is urgent to him and suggests that he comes to the house. Thenarrator starts approaching the house of usher in a state which seemsto be dark because it is in the evening, and a sensation of gloomfills his spirit. To date, gothic stories which don’t have elementsof darkness are nonexistent, or which occur in the noon or daylight.Hence, the narrator arrives at the house which is mysterious, anddarkness pervades it. When the narrator enters the archway of thehouse, he goes through several obscure and dark passages which arefull of darkness and heraldry trophies. The details regarding oldarmors in the shadows, as well as the dark, complex passages whichmysteriously lead the narrator are all in gothic stories.
Usherrequests the narrator to help him to carry the body which has beenput in a coffin. The body is moved to an underground section wherethe environment is very oppressive, and the torches they have carriedare almost blown out. The section was only lit up by their torches,and the dead body was being carried to a place which was dark, dankand damp as well. Once again, Edgar Poe uses a very efficient gothicmethod by his use of the dark, deep underground sections.
Poehas made use of vagueness in his story because people cannot be sureabout the place or time when the story occurs. As opposed to usingthe typical markers which are used by most writers regarding thelocation and time of the occurrence of the story, Edgar uses ancientgothic elements such as weather which is inclement, as well as alandscape which is devoid of its natural features. In the story, theaudience is alone with the narrator in space, which seems to behaunted, and everyone does not know the reason for this. Despite thefact that the narrator is a very close friend of Roderick since theirchildhood, he does not know so much about him. More specifically, hedoes not know that Roderick Usher has a twin sister. Edgar givessome building blocks that are evident of the gothic tale, and hedifferentiates this norm with a plot that is considered to be suddenand is filled with disruptions which are not expected. When thestory starts, it is devoid of a full explanation as to what themotive of the narrator is when he arrives at Usher’s house. Thisvagueness sets the plot’s tone that continuously clouds the realissues at hand.
Claustrophobia,Hidden Secrets and Supernatural Acts
Claustrophobiais the irrational or extreme fear of places which are enclosed. EdgarPoe develops this kind of feature in his story, where the narrator istrapped mysteriously by the attention of Roderick’s appeal, and heis incapable of escaping until when the house of usher completelycrumbles. In the house, the characters are unable to act and move asthey please, because of the manor’s structure. In this light, thehouse takes on a character which is deemed to be grotesque, wherebythe gothic elements are seen to control the inhabitant’s destiny.
Themansion`s claustrophobia affects the relationships among thecharacters. For instance, the narrator finds out that Lady Madelineand Roderick Usher are twins. He finds this out when he and Usher arepreparing to entomb Lady Madeline this was somewhat a hidden secret,and in gothic stories, secrecy is one of the elements employed.Furthermore, the enclosed and cramped setting of the tomb of burialsymbolically spread to the characteristics of the people who areinvolved. The twins cannot develop as free people because they aresimilar in several ways.
Beforeher actual death, Madeline is buried since her likeness to Usher issimilar to a coffin which grasps her identity. Madeline has problemsfaced by most women in the 19th century, whereby she lays aninvestment on her body’s identity. On the other hand, Usher has thepower of being an intellect. Madeline clearly has a weakness, butdespite it, she holds most of the power in the whole story. Forinstance, she seems to be of the superhuman nature especially whenshe gets out of the tomb. After this, she counteracts usher’splacement which is nervous, weak and not mobile.
Whenthe story ends, Lady Madeline falls on him in a fashion that depictsthat of a vampire when it sucks a person. The two are joined to beone, as they are united in the full moon`s light(Poe,22), then the narrator sees the tempestuous fall of the House ofUsher. The full moon and vampires are mostly used as an old prop forstories of the gothic nature. In particular, the elements are mainlyfound in gothic stories and films as well. All these unnatural actsshow the level of gothic elements adapted by Poe.
Edgaralso develops a sense of confusion between the non-real things andthe living organisms as he doubles Usher`s physical house with Usherfamily`s genetic line which he calls the house of Usher. The writeruses the word "house" in a metamorphic sense, and he alsoexhibits it as a household, which is real. The point at which thenarrator is trapped in the house is symbolism of Usher family`sbiological destiny. In particular, the family does not have anysurviving branches, therefore all the transmission regardinggenetics has happened in an incestuous manner, within the confines ofthe house. Another example is when the narrator first sees the houseas a reflection in the small pool, which seems to be upside down. Themirror image in the small pool is shown to double the mansion, but inan upside down manner. These are all relationships which areinversely symmetrical and show the features of the relationshipbetween Madeline and Roderick.
Clearly,the genre depicted by "The Fall of the House of Usher" isof gothic nature. The story fits in this particular genre because itcontains all the elements which are usually present in a gothicstory. For instance, fear is evident throughout the story doublinghas been employed there are disruptions which are unexpected,vagueness, and the decaying mansion. Claustrophobia is showcasedwhere people feel confined in the house and lack the ability to move.The presence of dark rooms, the aspect of unnatural acts, creakingand moaning sounds are also all features of gothic stories.Furthermore, raging storms, death, the sudden closing of windows areall adapted as well. The story functions as an appealing story on thelevel of a gothic horror story. All the elements mentioned abovecontribute to the gruesome, grotesque effects in which the writer wasaiming.
Poe,Edgar Allan.TheFall of the House of Usher.(2016): 3-25.