Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” is a masterpiece of Gothic literature, examining the fine line between life and death as a result of fear. Poe’s, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” possesses the conventional characteristics of Gothic literature and romanticism through the elements of loneliness, madness, and horror. Through Poe’s vivid personification, the physical state of the house reflects the mental condition of the Usher household, providing the reader with an insight into the enigmatic characterisation.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” exploits the Gothic tone throughout the five first paragraphs, as the short story centres on the shattered emotions of fear and alienation, that Poe manipulates to characterise the house. The Gothic scene is presented through, “Dull, dark, and soundless,” as the narrator demonstrates feelings of solitude, which are further explored through “alone,” “singularly,” and “found myself”. In fact, through people and the environment, the subconscious can become influenced leading to the mind’s perceptions of emotions. The personification, “upon the vacant eye-like windows,” indicates the presence of windows as eyes, reflecting the sense that the narrator is under continuous surveillance. Consequently, exhibiting a sense of fear and insecurity which continues the feelings of solitude. Additionally, Poe epitomises the House of Usher as depressing and sombre, hence the narrator cannot counteract these emotions. Poe exploits the short story to present death and life as frightening, by exposing the physical dimension of the House of Usher symbolising morality as a “hideous dropping off of the veil.” Thus, death becomes a reality that individuals dread at the end of their lives, suggesting that time is limited as death will happen at any moment.
Furthermore, fear interacts with the subconscious, “nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered.” The narrator’s overthinking expresses his fears on the reality of his death occurring, due to the crowded thoughts in finding out precisely what is going on because of this house. Furthermore, the descriptions of the house rely on being ominous and terrifying, due to its state of deterioration and on the brink of collapse and death, “House of Usher” –an appellation which seemed to include, in the minds of the peasantry who used it, both the family and the family mansion.” Consequently, the family is connected to the house, as Poe links the qualities of the house through its isolation and mystery. Therefore, this contributes to the narrator feeling discouraged and depressed, in comparison with what Poe alludes to throughout “The Fall of the House of Usher”, so the narrator can comprehend that the house is dark and frightening.
Subsequently, the experiences of life and death present an initial feeling of sorrow apparent in Roderick Usher’s emotional condition, as his acts may be the product of poor judgement, “…oh, pity me, miserable wretch that I am! –I dared not –I dared not speak! We have put her living in the tomb!” The burial of Roderick’s sister is, therefore, associated with the ‘disease’ of the house, as Roderick experiences the concepts of death and the last connection to his family. Additionally, Poe exploits “The Fall of the House of Usher”, to influence the reader through the eerie sensation when the crack in the house is “shone vividly.” The symbolism of the house breaking down, elucidates the demise of the Usher twins, further shocking the reader as the intended result of life and death becomes the central essence of this short story.
To conclude, Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” significantly examines life and death as a result of fear. Poe exploits the Gothic form of this short story, to illuminate death as being horrific that whoever becomes involved will be affected. This is explored through the house, the narrator and Roderick Usher. More so, “The Fall of the House of Usher” exploits the concept of life ending with death brings forth a sense of fear and anxiety throughout the reader.