Gothic September ~ “The Fall of the House of Usher”

gothic septemberGothic September is hosted by Michelle at Castle Macabre. Visit for all the details!

“The Fall of the House of Usher” is firmly Gothic. It starts with the House, crumbling into the tarn and clearly doomed by the zig-zagging fault that extends from roof to foundation. Roderick Usher even believes that the house has sentience. The “House” of Usher also refers to the family line, which Gothic novels are often very preoccupied with. Secret lineages are the order of the day, but in the case of the Ushers, it looks like their line will end with Roderick and his twin sister, Madeline.

The narrator is an old friend of Usher’s, called upon to journey to the family’s manse to provide cheer to the ailing Roderick. In comparison to the narrators of “Ligeia” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” this one is quite sane and offers commentary about his own mental state as well as Usher’s.

Usually, it’s the women who get the detailed description, but this time it’s Roderick Usher who gets the full Poe treatment:

…an eye large, liquid, and luminous beyond comparison; lips somewhat thin and very pallid, but of a surpassingly beautiful curve; a nose of a delicate Hebrew model, but with a breadth of nostril unusual in similar formations; a finely moulded chin, speaking, in its want of prominence, of a want of moral energy…

In fact, Madeline is strangely absent. She too is ill, given to fits of catalepsy, but our narrator doesn’t seem too concerned about providing her with cheer. He thinks he sees her pass through Roderick’s room, but he doesn’t follow her. She does die and Roderick decides to inter her in a copper-lined room of the house to avoid possibility of premature burial (although being left in a copper-lined donjon doesn’t seem to be much better). Days pass and both Roderick and our narrator start feeling a little jumpy. One night, during a strange electrical storm, we see Madeline again and the House of Usher finally falls…

ripnineperilshortThis story also counts for RIP X!

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6 thoughts on “Gothic September ~ “The Fall of the House of Usher”

  1. The reading group I formed at work picked this story as our October read. I haven’t read it in a very long time and look forward to revisiting it. When I (finally) read Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles” last year, I was surprised to find there the story, “Usher II” which includes a great shout out to Poe and this story.

    I’ve never thought too much about the “official definition” of a gothic novel (I just ‘know one when I see it’) but your pointing out a frequent preoccupation with “the family line” certainly rings true to me.

  2. Pingback: Pinned: Gothic and Imperiled | The Writerly Reader

  3. Pingback: Pinned: Crazy & Imperiled | The Writerly Reader

  4. Pingback: #RIPX and #15in31 Wrap-Up | The Writerly Reader

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