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Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of The House of Usher tells a story of fear and madness through the events that unfold. The story follows an unnamed narrator that receives a letter from a childhood friend Roderick Usher. Roderick has asked the narrator for help in his illness described as a “sensory disorder” (Poe 665), that gives him heightened senses to sound, light, smell, and taste. The Usher family is referred to as a very ancient family and has only furthered its lineage through incest. Roderick has a twin sister named Madeline who suffers from an illness similar to Roderick’s. Roderick assumes his sister has died from her illness one day and Burys her in the basement of the house with the rest of his family lineage. The narrator and Roderick are experiencing a stormy night and Roderick is reading a story to the narrator, when Madeline appears abruptly and kills Roderick, and herself. The narrator flees the house and as he is fleeing the house splits and crumbles into the pond and decaying life around it. The informational message to take from the text is that Paranoia and Madness are very lethal. Throughout the story the house is believed to be evil and alive. In the end, the narrator starts to believe Rodrick’s fallacies meaning that the house has affected him somehow. The house definitely has twisted and put Roderick’s mind into a state of fear, since he lived there his whole life. Roderick lost the ability to see and think rationally and lived in a constant fear of “terror” (Poe 665), and this terror eventually killed him. This fear of terror is what drove him mad and caused the insanity and madness that takes part in the story.
Poe’s syntax in the text is used to effectively describe the events of the story in vivid and unhindered detail. Poe uses Prepositional phrases to provide concrete descriptions of events to emphasize the gloomy and dark tone of the story. Poe uses this at the beginning of the story when he starts the text as “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 drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.” (Poe 662). He begins with this prepositional phrase to provide descriptive detail of the setting of the story and put emphasis on the Malicious and dark entity that is the House of Usher. Poe uses morbid and explicit words to describe the story. He also uses parentheticals to provide more detail on an event in the story, provide clarity on description of characters, and to express the narrator’s thoughts on an unfolding event. Poe grabs a book to read to Roderick called “Mad Trist” (Poe 672), and hopes that “the excitement which now agitated the hypochondriac, might find relief (for the history of mental disorder is full of similar anomalies) even in the extremeness of the folly which I should read.” (Poe 672). Poe provides the narrators thought and perspective by using a parenthetical. The use of this style develops the narrators scientific and doctor like approach to Rodrick and the house throughout the story.
Poe’s uses several figurative language techniques to link the house to the Ushers. The decaying house is also causing the Ushers to decay mentally and physically. The narrator describes Roderick using a metaphor of “To an anomalous species of terror I found him a bounden slave.” (Poe 665), which portrays that Roderick is a slave to the house, having lived under it his whole life. Roderick has been steadily worsening in condition as the house is, and he cannot escape the house. The narrator upon arriving at the house describes the oculars of the house as “Vacant eye-like windows” (Poe 662), using this personification the narrator conveys that the house is like a member of the Usher family. The House is portrayed as a dark entity that enforces its ill will on its inhabitants.
Poe uses conjunctive adverbs to introduce new action, reveal hidden meanings, and show cause and effect of Roderick’s mental illness and the houses torment. Towards the climax of the story the narrator begins with “And now, some days of bitter grief having elapsed, an observable change came over the features of the mental disorder of my friend.” (Poe 670). This adds a foreshadowing of a decline in sanity for Roderick by saying that a change happened in the behavior of Roderick. This is also only after a couple of days after Melanie has died and might be what caused Roderick’s change in mental disorder severity. The narrator uses a coordinating conjunction when describing Roderick’s favorite book and says that “I could not help thinking of the wild ritual of this work, and of its probable influence upon the hypochondriac,…” (669 Poe). this is used to link the narrator’s thoughts with the current event and provide more context on the severity if Roderick’s madness. These tools help develop Rodrick’s illness by tying together comparisons to other diseases, scientific hypotheses, observations, and contrasting them with the supernatural and “terror” of the story. This “terror” (Poe 665), is the only thing Roderick is afraid of, and that is why he will eventually succumb to it. This drives him into paranoia and madness.
Poe uses very dark vocabulary that is very vivid and gruesome to build the events and details of the story. He uses descriptive vocabulary to show the narrators interpretation of the house and its inhabitants. He also uses diction to add suspense to the story at certain intervals. Upon entering the house, the narrator notes that “An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded all.” (Poe 664), presided inside the house. Poe uses words like “stern”,” irredeemable”, “gloom”, and “pervaded” to create a graphic, dark and fearful description of the house for the reader. Additionally, it will add a sense of nostalgia for the reader throughout its use of dark vocabulary. Poe also creates a feeling of hopelessness by using words like “irredeemable” and “pervaded”. This hopelessness is later exemplified in Roderick’s feelings of his life and family.

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