Imagery in The Fall of the House

Imagery of the Supernatural in "The Fall of the House of Usher" Edgar Allan Poe\'s writings are known for their macabre subject matter. In "The Fall of the House of Usher", Poe uses the life-like characteristics of an otherwise decaying house as a device for giving the house a supernatural atmosphere. Frank N. Magill explains this concept best when he writes, "Usher feels that it is the form and substance of his family mansion that affects his morale. He believes that, as a result of the arrangement of the stones, the house has taken on life" (1645). From the very beginning of the story, the reader can tell that there is something unusual and almost supernatural about the structure. As the narrator approaches the home of his long-time friend, Roderick Usher, he refers to the house as the "meloncholy House of Usher" (George & Barbara Perkins, 1511). Upon looking at the building, he even describes the feeling he has as "a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit" (Perkins, 1511). Charles Feidelson, Jr. and Paul Brodtkorb, Jr. approach this sense rationally when they write of the narrator incorporating various senses; one being a sixth sense of vague and indescribable realities behind the physical and apparent and another being a clever, reational interpretation of unsensible phenomena (52). Although the narrator tries to view everything he sees in a rational manner, upon seeing the house and its surroundings, he has a heightened 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" (Perkins, 1513). This statement indicates that perhaps the house does indeed have supernatural characteristics and that something of an exterordinary sense is actually holding the house intact. Upon entering the house, the narrator becomes increasingly convinced that the house has some supernatural effect on those living there after observing the odd behavior and personalities of its inhabitants. For example, Upon meeting Roderick Usher, the narrator remarks, ..... the physique of the gray walls and the turrents, and of the dim tarn into which they all looked down, had, at length, brought upon the morale of his existence" (Perkins, 1515). The narrator is remarking on Usher\'s strange behavior in the house. Roderick Usher also had a firm belief in the sentience of inorganic matter and he sees the reason for this belief in the atmosphere. Moreover, he states that the atmosphere has been responsible for the strangeness of his family and his habits. The narrator later describes his own superstition when he remarks, "I endeavored to believe that much, if not all of what I felt, was due to the bewildering influence of the gloomy flirniture of the room..." (Perkins, 1520). He also describes feelings of alarm which he has as causeless, perhaps indicating that the house may in fact be having some effect on him. I. M. Walker sums up this observation best when he writes that the narrators mental unbalance is obviously being disturbed by his environnment (52). Walker also states, "the narrator leaves the House of Usher with a sense of supernatural fatality accomplished with no natural explanation" (61). Throughout the story, Poe\'s imagery of the house and the inanimate objects inside serve to give a supernatural atmosphere to the story. By giving inanimate objects almost life-like characteristics, he is giving the house a supernatural quality. The supernatural element serves to make Poe\'s "The Fall of the House of Usher" interesting and suspensfill in his treatment of the house\'s effect on its occupants. Works Cited Abel, Darrel. "A Key to The House of Usher." Interpretations of American Literature. Ed. Charles Feidelson, Jr. and Paul Brodtkorb, Jr. New York: Oxford University Press, 1959: pgs. 51-62. Magill, Frank N. Magill\'s Survev of American Literature. Vol.5: Olsen-Snyder: New York: Salem Press, Inc., 1991. Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Fall of the House of Usher." The American Tradition in Literature eith edition. Ed. George and Barbara Perkins. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1994: pgs. 1511-1523. Walker, I. M. "The Legitimate Sources of Terror in \'The Fall of the House of Usher\'." Twentieth Century Interpretations of Poe\'s Tales. Ed. William L. Howarth. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1971: pgs. 47-54.