Research Essay on Mental Illnesses in 'The Fall of the House of Usher' and 'A Rose for Emily'

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A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner and Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe explore the psychological criticism through avenues of agoraphobia, depression, and necrophilia. Both Poe and Faulkner use elements of gothic literature in their writing which revolved around the death of a loved one, isolation, and mental illness. In Emily’s case of losing a loved one, it’s her former servant, Homer that she poisoned and kept his corpse which she slept next to. As for Roderick, it’s his sister Madeline. When reading both stories it is evident that the characters suffer from these illnesses and use the dead as a coping mechanism.

While both characters have very similar backgrounds, when it comes to death, they have different views. The character of Roderick acknowledges his sister's death, repenting and not going insane, while Emily is not capable of feeling regret and not in her right mind. Lady Madeline, the wife of Roderick by incest, falls ill and dies leaving Roderick as the family's last devisee. Roderick places her in a grave. In his room, He later comes to find out she's not dead. On the other hand, Emily figures out that Homer, her partner is either gay or not a person who has romantic relationships. She uses arsenic, and rat poison to kill him so that he won't give her up. Therefore, because of illness, Roderick loses his lover, so he thinks, and Emily kills her lover, so she doesn't have to be alone. Roderick has no interaction with the community and he doesn't have any family. He also has little to do with nature; nature ceases to exist around his home. It's surrounded by black water and rotting tree vehicles. Emily had refused to leave her home or maintain it leaving it vulnerable to damage.

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Roderick Usher has a relationship with his own mind that is unnatural. His body and mind are at war with each other. He is very sensitive to light, unable to tolerate noise, and can only eat very bland food. A person in Roderick's situation would end up going crazy with no support system. Emily's relationships were very unhealthy. Her father dominated her, and she was not permitted to go out with anyone. She didn’t know what love was, so she clung to her father and held on to what she knew. She was searching for love when her father passed by and found Homer, all the time she wanted him there. This relationship was cruel as she killed him and slept with his body every night when she found out that he didn't want her, and she didn't feel abandoned. “After her father's death she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw her at all.” (Faulkner,1) Telling us how she began to change after her father’s death.

With this questioning of sanity or need therefrom inside, we find that Roderick believes nothing of his condition meanwhile the reader is able to see what he is blind to, for example “the writer spoke of acute bodily illness--of a mental disorder which oppressed him.” (Poe,3). This separation of sanity experienced in Roderick Usher is also universally prevalent in Emily. Throughout the story, Emily battles with a life of seclusion and yearning for love from a companion. Her surrounding counterparts are a controlling father and their servant. Insanity is revealed in many instances in the story. One of the most profound and apparent signs of insanity begins with the relationship between her and her dad. “We remembered all the young men her father had driven away.” (Faulker,14)

“Fall of the House of Usher,” Roderick says, “I have no abhorrence of dangers, except in its absolute effect—in terror.” By this, he tries to explain himself as a man in fear and misunderstanding. This confirms the conclusion of repentance. Emily shows no shame by keeping the man she murdered and continuously sleeping with his corpse. She insists that she did nothing wrong and that he was wrong because he wanted to leave her. Nonetheless, Roderick feels devastated as he thinks that his sister has passed away and he feels surprised, guilty, and ashamed when he finds out that she is still alive. His sister was all he had, and he didn't want her to abandon him just as Emily didn't want Homer to leave her, but unlike Emily, Roderick wasn’t a killer.

There are a lot of similarities between Roderick and Emily, as well as a lot of differences between the two characters. Both had no sense of time, both were in extreme psychological situations, both had distorted romantic theories, both had very unhealthy marriages, and both resided in old gothic. The underlying meaning of these two tails had to do with death and mental illness and how they interact.

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Research Essay on Mental Illnesses in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ and ‘A Rose for Emily’. (2024, January 30). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from
“Research Essay on Mental Illnesses in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ and ‘A Rose for Emily’.” Edubirdie, 30 Jan. 2024,
Research Essay on Mental Illnesses in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ and ‘A Rose for Emily’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 Jun. 2024].
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