�The Fall of the House of Usher�

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					“The Fall of the House of
     by Edgar Allan Poe
After reading ¶1 on p. 123, summarize
what the narrator already knows about
Roderick Usher and his family estate.

• The family is very old
• The family is very reserved, artistic and
• The family isn’t very big – only a direct
  line of descent (inheritance)
• The mansion and the family are
  identified as one in the name “House of
  How does the description of the
 room contribute to the mystery of
            the story?
• The large, high ceilinged room seems
  dark, suggesting claustrophobia
• The light is “encrimsoned” or reddened,
  suggesting blood or death
• The narrator describes the atmosphere as
  stern and gloomy
In your own words, sum up Usher’s
        view of his situation.
• He suffers from overly sensitive senses
• He is afraid of being taken over by fear
• He thinks that fear will kill him
  What is so startling about the
narrator’s first glimpse of Madeline
• She looks just like Roderick.
• He’s overcome with stupor and he notices
  that Roderick goes pale and cries.
     What does Usher’s painting
          suggest to you?
• The flood of light in the closed, apparently
  underground room suggests Roderick’s
  desire to overcome the oppressive
  atmosphere of the mansion.
• It might also suggest his desire to banish
  something sinister about either the house,
  or Madeline, or both.
    How might the poem parallel
    Roderick Usher’s situation?
• The poem begins with a prince who is
  happy and a palace that is bright, musical,
  and beautiful. However, evil corrupts the
  happy palace and leaves it full of sinister
• The “red-litten windows” echo the
  “encrimsoned light” in the Usher mansion
  and suggest that the Usher family was
  once happy but now is oppressed by
  sinister forces.
 What is strange about Madeline’s
  face as she lies in the coffin?
• She and Roderick look unnervingly alike
• She has some color in her face
• She has a slight smile on her face
    What do you infer about the
   changes in Usher’s behavior?
• His voice trembles and he wanders
  constantly, suggesting agitation
• He seems like he has a secret he wants to
  tell, and he looks sometimes like he’s
  listening closely to something
• This suggests that he is very afraid and
  knows something he should tell the
Which of the narrator’s experiences
 in the Usher mansion might have
   led to what he “endeavored to
• He is increasingly fearful and tries to
  believe that it’s just because of the dark,
  gloomy atmosphere of the house.
• However, the burial of Madeline probably
  unnerved him, too.
 What is the storm like and what is
 gathering around the house in the
• The storm seems like a whirlwind (vortex!)
  with wind going in all directions
• There’s also a mist or fog gathering
  around the house that actually glows
  Describe the mood of the story
 after the narrator thinks he hears
   “the very cracking and ripping
     sound …” from his reading.
• This creates a frightening and suspenseful
  mood, as well as mysterious as the reader
  tries to figure out where the noises are
  coming from.
 What effect do the passages from
the “Mad Trist” have on the events
           of the story?
• They add to the suspense as the sounds
  the narrator hears are not only predicted
  by the story, but slowed in pace by the
  intervening passages from the story.
 What do you predict will happen
 after the narrator reads about the
     shield falling to the floor?
• He will hear a crashing sound.
  On the basis of what Usher is
 saying on this page, what do you
      expect to happen next?
• He says, “I tell you that she now stands
  without the door”
• This suggests that Madeline is about to
  enter, having broken out of her coffin.
   What happens to Roderick and
         Madeline Usher?
• She comes in, covered in blood from her
  struggle to escape her coffin, and falls on
• He falls with her and dies of fear.
What happens to the Usher house?
• The crack noticed by the narrator at the
  beginning of the story rips wide open and
  the house collapses into the tarn (pond).
Method of      Example or Quote What it shows about
Characterizati (with page number) character
Character’s p. 122 “what    Rational/logical
thoughts    was it that so
            unnerved me”
Character’s p. 122 feels he Kind, sympathetic
words       must go to RU
Method of       Example or Quote (with page   What it shows
Characterizatio number)                       about
n                                             character

Other           p. 122 Roderick asks          Trustworthy
character’s     him to visit
Character’s p. 130 doesn’t question passive
actions     Madeline’s burial
Character’s p. 122 Describes                  observant
own words Roderick
Roderick Usher
Method of        Example or Quote (with page   What it shows
Characterization number)                       about

Other            p. 122 “passionate devotion artistic
characters’      to … musical science”; his
words/own        painting; plays music;
actions          poetry

Character’s      p. 125 “nervous affection”    Sensitive,
own words        “morbid acuteness of the      controlled
                 senses” “fatal demon of       by
                 fear” p. 123 “web-work”       vampire
                 fungi p. 124 “weblike” hair   house
Roderick Usher (cont)
Method of       Example or Quote (with   What it shows
Characterizatio page number)             about character

Character’s p. 126 “tenderly             Loving,
own words beloved sister”                values family
            “bitterness” about her

Other           p. 122 “his reserve      reserved
characters’     had been …
words           excessive”
Roderick Usher (cont)
Method of       Example or Quote (with page   What it shows
Characterizatio number)                       about character
Character’s     p. 134 “I heard her first Passive,
own actions     feeble movements          possibly cruel
                …yet… I dared not
Madeline Usher
Method of          Example or Quote (with page   What it shows
Characterization   number)                       about character
Other              p. 126 “Hitherto she          Tenacious
characters’        had steadily borne up”
Other              p. 135 “Is she not            Vengeful
characters’        hurrying to upbraid me
words              for my haste?”
Other              p. 134 “we have put her Possibly
characters’        living into the tomb”   vampiric
Madeline Usher
Method of          Example or Quote (with   What it shows
Characterization   page number)             about
Character’s        p. 126 “sole             Loyal
own action         companion for long
Narrator’s         P. 126 “disease….        mysterious
comments           Had long baffled…
The House of Usher
Method of         Example or Quote (with page   What it shows
Characterizatio   number)                       about character
Other             p. 122 “utter depression Oppressive/
characters’       of soul” when looking at lifelike
thoughts/nar      house; “vacant eye like
rator’s           windows”
other             p. 129 order of stones, sentient
characters’       fungi (similar to R’s hair
thoughts/nar      p. 124), reflection in
rator’s           tarn, vapor around
comment           house
The House of Usher
Method of        Example or Quote (with page    What it shows
Characterization number)                        about
Other            p. 123 fungi in “webwork”;     Vampiric
characters’      p. 124 R’s “web-like” hair;
thoughts         loss of life force; Madeline
                 rises from dead (sort of)
Other            p. 123 “barely perceptible     Unstable/
characters’      fissure”; p. 135 collapses     run-down
Romantic Story Analysis Chart
Interest in the common man and
• Although Roderick and Madeleine are
  adults, they seem innocent and are
    Strong senses, emotions, and
•   Roderick’s fear and guilt
•   Narrator’s fear and dread
•   Madeline’s desire for retribution
•   Possible vampiric tendencies of the house
    and/or Madeline
           Love of Nature
• Nature swallows the house
• Shows healing/restorative power of nature
  Celebration of the Individual
• Roderick & Madeline are misunderstood
    Importance of imagination
• Madeline being buried alive and breaking
  out of coffin and crypt
• Story of Ethelred
• “Haunted Palace” poem
• Mansion’s oppressive personality and
  possible vampirism
            Gothic elements
• Old, noble family
• Mansion seems medieval, including old
• Underground crypt with copper clad floor
  and iron doors
• Strange reflection of house in tarn (pond)
• Roderick’s superstitious beliefs about
    Gothic Elements - insanity
• Roderick’s guilt and fear drive him insane
• Could interpret Roderick and Madeline as
  two parts of a personality – Roderick is
  repressing all his physical desires, leaving
  himself out of balance and dangerously
• Mansion might also be sapping the energy
  from Roderick and Madeline like a
Gothic Elements - Supernatural
• Madeline seems to rise from the dead
• House has oppressive and possibly
  vampiric personality (sentient)
• House falls apart when Ushers die as if
  only their life force keeps it together
  Gothic Elements – horrifying
• Roderick seems to understand what is
  happening to Madeline when narrator
  doesn’t – her being victimized by the
  house and possibly turned into a vampire.
• This might explain her burial in crypt with
  copper floor and iron doors.

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