“The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe The mind is a complicated thing. Not many stories are able to portray this in such an interesting manner as in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”. The haunting story of a man and his sister, living in the old family mansion. But as all should know, much symbolism can be found in most of Poe’s works. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is no exception. First of all, we have the symbolisme of Roderick Ushers mind and the House of Usher coinciding. Both can be seem as one and the same.
Residing in the house are both Roderick and his sister, Madeline. What can be translated from this is the age old hypothesis, the mind is divided in two parts: a male or rational part, and a female or emotionnal part. In Usher’s mind, we can see that he has problems expressing his emotions, represented as Madeline’s unknown sickness. When she finally dies, Roderick puts her away in an old dungeon t’ill she is to be buried. One could say that Usher is trying to forget about his emotions by throwing that part of his mind into the basement, or subconcious.
He knows that if he can survive a fortnight without this emotional part in him, he’ll be able to live without it for the rest of his days. Another symbol is the one of the fortnight. A fortnight is 14 days, or half a moon cycle. The full moon can be seen as another symbol for the unconcious mind or even the dark side in us all. Whereas a new moon represents the concious or good side in us all. Madeline was locked away just at the beginning of the full moons half cycle.
In other words, Roderick knew that this was the worst time for his sister to die, she could easily comeback, using the moons dark power. Unfourtunatly, on the night of the full moon, or the wost night of turmoil for Usher’s mind, Roderick’s sister comes back from the dead to kill him. In other words, the one thing he wanted to get rid of comes back and puts an end to his already fragile mind. Thia is why The House of Usher collapses and falls to ruins into the swampy pool in front of it.
Basically, Usher’s mind collapses right down the middle, just where the male and female parts of the mind are seperated. Along with the swampy pool, the exterior of the house also plays a symbolic role in this story. The land around the house has a lack of colour and healthy vegetation. This can be said to represent Usher’s surroundings. They are dark, plagued and hopeless. Perhaps hese surroundings are the source of his depression, or perhaps only a part of it. From afar, the house seems stable.
Quite in good shape in fact, but upon closer inspection, it can be seen that the house’s innards are rotten. The house, along with Usher’s mind, are about to crumble. Another resemblance between Roderick and his house is how the hair on his forhead seems to match the web work of eaves along the houses facade. These eaves, acting as a parasite, start from the top of the house and make there way down. In other words, this parasite, plaguing Usher’s mind, started in his concious mind and worked it’s ay into his unconcious mind.
Roderick’s thin pale lips can represent the thin line of life keeping him in check. His pale and cadaverous features resemble the dark and cold look of the house. All these images show us that Usher is not long for this world. Near the end of the work, the narrator decides to tell Roderick a story to calm his soul and give him stregnth. During this time, Roderick is a nervous, paranoid wreck. He keeps saying that his sister will come back. The book read by our narrator to Roderick tells the story of a knight on his way to see a magician of some sort. In his place, he finds a dragon he must slay.
Once the dragon is down, our heros prize, a wonderfull sheild, falls to the ground instead of in the heros hands. In other words, the hero was to face his fear but failed in doing so correctly. That is why his prize, perhaps Usher’s sane mind, falls to the floor. This symbolism is also played in the “real world”. The exact momment where the shield falls to the floor, a knock is heard on the chambers door. Roderick goes to answer it and uppon opening the door, Madeline is seen, blood all over her, lunging towards him. We can see then why he says he was buried alive.
Ones capacity to express emotion, however bad it may be, is never truly dead, only forever sick. “The Fall of the House of Usher”. A good story by itself. An even better story if analysed correctly. The story of a man loosing his mind has rarely been presented so imaginatively. But this was only from one point of view. What other meanings can be pulled from this story? Perhaps it is the inner mind of a schitzophrenic, or even a legend told to scare little boys from hurting there sisters. They may just come back! Either way, This work is still worth reading.