In the short story, The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe, diction, symbolism, narration, and foreshadowing is extensively used to create an air of dread and suspense. Poe’s use of diction along with symbolism contributes to establishing a mood of somberness, and impending despair through dread. By using symbolic comparison between the Ushers and their manor, the story’s suspense builds as the queer characteristics of the Usher’s manor are depicted. Poe’s advanced literary tactics are evident in the way he is able to achieve a story of both dread and horror.
In The Fall of the House of Usher, Poe’s Gothic, and abhorrent wording allows him to establish a dreadful mood. Poe’s style of writing along with his foreshadowing vernacular is significant in creating a suspenseful Gothic era story. At the beginning of the short story, Poe describes the House of Usher, I looked upon the scene before me –upon the mere manor, and the simple landscape features of the domain –upon the bleak walls –upon the vacant eye-like windows –upon a few rank sedges — and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees… (Poe). His choice of words strongly emphasizes a mood of darkness and suspense as he builds on the horrific aspects of his story. At first glimpse, the manor itself is surrounded by the feeling of insufferable gloom, There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart, an unredeemed dreariness of thought… (Poe). The atmosphere that Poe describes in the statement above establishes a cold, bone chilling mood. Poe uses words such as insufferable gloom along with other abhorrent words to stress a mood of horror and unease in the manor. Furthermore, the manor evokes suspense as it strikes the reader with curiosity as to why the building presents itself in such a dreadful and uneasy manner. Poe describes the manor with further detail emphasizing its ghastly traits: Dark draperies hung upon the walls. The general furniture was profuse, comfortless, antique, and tattered. Many books and musical instruments lay scattered about, but failed to give any vitality to the scene (Poe). Poe description of the manor leads it to be a depressant in the story. It sets up a somber mood that slowly leads more into dread and horror as the work goes on. The Usher’s manor is a dark and foreboding place and Poe does well in setting up the scene of his work.
Poe also uses symbolism to represent the connection between the manor and the Usher family. The description of the manor itself has an inseparable resemblance to that of Roderick and Madelyn Usher. Once the narrator arrives at the Usher’s manor, Poe offers an in-depth description of the manor’s current physical state. The discoloration of age had been great. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in fine tangled web-work from the eves (Poe), Poe is able to manifest an air of suspense by comparing the state of the Usher’s manor to that of Roderick Usher himself. Roderick Usher was known by the narrator in his childhood, and his childhood memories of him are of a noble man. Now his friend has been reduced to a pallid description The now ghastly pallor of the skin, and the now miraculous lustre of the eve, above all things startled and even awed me. The silken hair, too, had been suffered to grow all unheeded, and as, in its wild gossamer texture, it floated rather than fell about the face, I could not, even with effort, connect its Arabesque expression with any idea of simple humanity (Poe). This description is in direct comparison with the Usher’s own manor and represents how he has fallen along with it. Roderick’s sister Madelyn Usher, is more described through her malady. The disease of the lady Madeline had long baffled the skill of her physicians. A settled apathy, a gradual wasting away of the person, and frequent although transient affections of a partially cataleptical character, were the unusual diagnosis. (Poe). While Roderick does not have this malady himself, he describes himself and being afflicted with a constitutional and a family evil, and one for which he despaired to find a remedy –a mere nervous affection, he immediately added, which would undoubtedly soon pass off. (Poe). Though Roderick Usher would later admit that his sisters ondition is inpart affecting him, one must think if this malady is Usher’s curse in physical form. He also described Roderick Usher himself as …enchained by certain superstitious impressions in regard to the dwelling which he tenanted… and along with the dreariness of the manor, serves to set up greater suspense in the work.
Poe’s use of foreshadowing serves to build the suspense and horror in the story. The earliest of which, clever readers will see it as the foreshadowing of the end Perhaps the eye of a scrutinizing observer might have discovered a barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn. (Poe). By foreshadowing the end in the beginning, Poe sets up an air of dread and suspense for his story. Because it is brought up so early, the reader is left wondering what impact this will have on the story, and it remains in the back of their thoughts. Of course, Roderick Usher himself foreshadowed his own demise “”I shall perish, said he, I must perish in this deplorable folly. Thus, thus, and not otherwise, shall I be lost. I dread the events of the future, not in themselves, but in their results. I shudder at the thought of any, even the most trivial, incident, which may operate upon this intolerable agitation of soul. I have, indeed, no abhorrence of danger, except in its absolute effect –in terror. In this unnerved-in this pitiable condition –I feel that the period will sooner or later arrive when I must abandon life and reason together, in some struggle with the grim phantasm, FEAR.”” (Poe). With previous foreshadowing laid out in the story, Roderick Usher himself saying that his end is upon him, puts the full gravity of suspense on the reader. Of course, the narrator was asked to come here to belay the feelings of dread that Roderick Usher was feeling and so he does his best too. Yet still Poe’s foreshadowing rings in the background, and moves ever closer to the foreground.
The narration of the story is also important in the overall work. The story is told through the eyes of a narrator who has known Roderick Usher since their childhood. Since the story is being told from a narrator’s perspective, we are allowed access to a far more intimate look at the narrator’s perspective of the events unfolding around him. This serves to greatly emphasize the abhorrent circumstances and bleak and oppressive scene of the House of Usher. The narrator makes multiple attempts to try and bring objectivity to his and Roderick Usher’s fears and tell an objective account of whats happening. This merely serves to undermine himself and Usher when it’s clear that he cannot be trusted upon his word, which serves immensely to expand the dread and horror that comes latter in the work.
In the end of The Fall of the House of Usher all of Poe’s techniques from diction to symbolism, narration, and foreshadowing come head. All serve their purpose in building up to the climactic and terrible ending that the narrator witnesses with disbelieving eyes as he flees in abject terror. Through proper use of these many techniques, Poe establishes an emotionally suspenseful story that masterfully sets itself up for its horrifying end.
Poe A, Edgar. “”The Fall of the House of Usher (1839).”” 27 June 2005. 26 September 2018
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