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Literature: Edgar Allan Poe

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Fall of the House of Usher "During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless
day in autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the
heavens…" is the opening sentence to the ever strange The Fall of the
House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe (1373). This sentence pretty much simplifies
the mood of this gothic tale of death and the supernatural. This story
encompasses a unique setting which acts out the story by itself. Much emphasis
is placed on the looks and feeling that the house gives to the unnamed narrator.
Through the use of imagery this great poet sets the mood or foreshadows what is
expected to come. The ever presence of the "mansion of gloom" causes
the reader to imply that only evil and death shall arise from the house (Poe
1374). Imagery, when used correctly, can be a mighty weapon that gives any story
a certain feeling different from others. Imagery sets the stage to give the
reader an idea of what the setting is and how it effects the outcome of the
story. In the introduction of this tale the narrator approaches a house of a
long time friend, Roderick Usher, and has a "sense of insufferable gloom
pervading my spirit" (Poe 1374). To the narrator the windows appear to be
"vacant" and "eye-style" and the narrator goes on to observe
the "rank edges," and the "black and lurid tarn," in which
he sees the reflection of the house. He later says, "when I again uplifted
my eyes to house itself, from its image in the pool, there grew a strange
fancy…" (Poe 1376). Although the narrator tried to view everything he
sees in a rational manner, upon seeing the house and its surroundings, he has a
sense of superstition. He goes on to say that, "about the whole mansion and
domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate
vicinity" (Poe 1377). This statement indicates that perhaps the house does
indeed have supernatural characteristics. The narrator also notices the fungi on
the walls and the poor structure of the house and suggest that something
possibly supernatural is holding the house intact, otherwise it would have
fallen to the ground long ago. The setting is shown to be the house itself and
all of these quotations concrete the fact that Poe used various gloomy
descriptions in order to get across the total evil that encompasses the house.
Death is apparent and is "in the air" because the house is ghostly and
everything involving the Mathusalehistic (Bible) house. Setting can not just be
quarantined by itself when analyzing a story because many details make up the
overall setting. Setting is not limited to concrete objects and places but a
feeling can also be the inner setting of the story. In The Fall of the House of
Usher several great aspects of the setting are death, supernatural, evil, and
everything else from the dark side of the spectrum. In the story there is an
increase of negativity on the atmosphere of sorrow, which turns to one of great
evil, which leads to death: death of Roderick Usher. It is in the atmosphere and
creates a living nightmare for Roderick. It is a nightmare that wants to escape
but cannot - that is he can not escape the nightmare alive. In this story death
is not considered as a bad occurrence, especially for Usher, who uses death as
his only means of escape: his only way to freedom. And in the end Lady Madeline
of Usher seeks revenge on Roderick but she does not know that he welcomes death.
Usher preferred death than the hellish prison his life was becoming. It is
death, in the fall of Usher; Usher finally has peace- he finally has freedom.
Poe uses death and evil as the main non-concrete setting of the story. The whole
entire story revolves around this feeling of death and becomes a major setting
of the story. The setting of any story greatly influences what the reader is
suppose to perceive from what will happen and what is actually happening. In the
story The Fall of the House of Usher Poe with the use of imagery gives the
reader a sense of the total evil of the house. The mood for the story can be
seen rather early on and is intended to get the reader in the right frame of
mind for what is about to happen. Poe also used a thought or feeling as a
setting. He incorporated evil and death into the story and these became its main
theme: "I shall perish, I must perish in this deplorable folly….- I feel
that I must abandon life and reason together I my struggles with some fatal
demon of fears" (Poe 1378-1379).
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