The Fall of the House of Usher has strong literary elements that make it align with the more Gothic style writing that once came from romanticism. Gothic literature is a certain writing style that is mainly defined by its use of death, fear, horror, gloom and while using more romantic features like very high and strong emotional connections, individualism, and suspense (The Gothic Experience).
Gothic literature got its start in romanticism which is a literary are movement that focus on subjectivity and individuality. The Fall of the House of Usher definitely falls under the Gothic literature aspect with its use haunted houses, weird illnesses, split personality and its depressing landscape. Such elements make it very identifiable as something of Gothic literature. Part of what makes this story so unique is that one cannot be sure where exactly this is taking place. Whether that be in Roderick’s head or the narrator’s head is not certain. Which plays into the human mind similar to what dark romanticism had done with some parts of the House of Usher.
In the Fall of the House of Usher Poe uses some of the very basic elements of a Gothic literature like very dark gloomy weather and a desolate landscape. Much like how it is described by Gothic Experience which stated, “The Gothic creates feelings of gloom, mystery, and suspense and tends to the dramatic and the sensational, like incest, diabolism, and nameless terrors” (Gothic Experience). Much like dark romanticism Gothic literature according to Morgan Howard, “in general their works tend to be pessimistic, and deal particularly with death. Morality, the question of evil, and the human psyche all play a role in the canon of all three men- issues that both the Romantics and the Gothics explore”(Howard). What makes Poe’s Usher story really stand out as a Gothic literature is his use of imagery to help push the story forward. When the narrator in the Fall of the House of Usher calls the day dark, dull, and gloomy he is giving the readers the impression that it is dark and gloomy outside with nothing really going and the sun which isn’t shinning. When Poe describes the weather, he discusses how dense and how low the clouds were to give further description on the clouds being low to the ground and the sun not shinning.
Poe is considered the master of Gothic writing with many of works detailing characteristics like attractive female characters that end up dead or dying. In the Fall of the House of Usher the sister Roderick, Madeline who had supposedly died but came back from the dead after being buried alive and killed her brother Roderick. Another characteristic of Gothic literature that Poe tends to have a lot of in his writing especially in the Fall of the House of Usher is whether or not the narrator is sane. In the beginning of the story, the narrator remains very aware of his surroundings and describes the house that he is visiting.
As the story progresses that seems to spiral further and further down into this hole of insanity. This is called further into question when the narrator says “What was it--I paused to think--what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? It was a mystery all-insoluble; nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered. I was forced to fall back upon the unsatisfactory conclusion, that...there are combinations of very simple natural objects which have the power of thus affecting us, still the analysis of this power lies among considerations beyond our depth”(Fall of the House of Usher).
This leads some to believe that the narrator was not in his right mind completely as the House of Usher story continues. Weird places and settings is another characteristic of Gothic literature that Poe Uses. The place the narrator is going to visit his friend Roderick he describes as depressing, dark, gloomy and overall just an unhappy place to be. Poe also talked about in his Gothic literature being buried, revenge, and murder all of which happened to Madeline during the story in which she was able buried alive, freed herself and got revenge on her brother Roderick by murdering him. Poe was a strong believer that only being in such extreme situations could the type of person you truly are actually be revealed to the world. Poe’s obsession with the mental state of individuals and the types of influences it has on his writings has caused some critics to believe that Madeline is not real and is a figment of the narrator’s and Roderick’s imagination which is purposely done to blur the lines between what is fake and what is actually going on.
Another strong Gothic element that the Fall of the House of Usher uses is the doppelganger which is meant to show the doubling literary elements or inanimate objects. When the narrator first sees the mansion, it is as a reflection in a little pool, which is next to the house. This little pool is meant to be a double of the house but it can also be shown to portray the relationship between Madeline and Roderick. This describes the tarn in the story; it is the reflection of the tarn. This is the main essence of Gothic literature which according to Morgan Howard “It presents “the darker side of awareness… guilt, fear and madness… the uncomfortable sense of being in a fantasy world which is about to reveal secrets of the human personality”” (Howard).