The twenty first century author Alexandra Iftodi Zamfir (1986- ) argues that “architecture and settings are more important in Gothic fiction than in any other type of literature…all architectural elements are closely connected with Gothic protagonists and the plot.” (Zamfir. 2011: 15). This critical essay will first consider and analyse this statement and investigate the style, language and form of the American author Edgar Allan Poe’s (1809-1849) macabre and Gothic fictional prose The Fall of the House of Usher (1839) (Poe. 1987: 1). I shall present and argue how the artistic effects deployed in the narrative structure create an atmosphere of tension and suspense, through the exploration of architectural space demonstrated in a close reading and analysis from key passages of the text.
The Fall of the House of Usher was written by the American author and poet Edgar Allan Poe, it first featured as a Gothic short story in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine in (1839) (Hayes. 2002: xvii). Poe was writing at a time of immense change to social, economic and cultural conditions following the technological advancements of the Industrial Revolution (1750-1850), his work on The Fall of the House of Usher could be said to show an impact of Western society’s internal and external fragmentation. (Montagna: 2006).
As stated by Zamfir “the universe portrayed in the House of Usher is Poe’s most sublime…in humanizing a dwelling to portray the inner self of the Gothic hero, but it also represents an investigation of the self in a state of disintegration.” (Zamfir. 2011: 62). This process of disintegration is both reflected within the architectural structure of the house itself; as the building gradually corrodes, in addition to that of the psychological structure of the main character’s fractured minds. The reader witnesses a fragmentation of both architectural and psychological space observed through the Narrator, Roderick and Madeline Usher.
The Fall of the House of Usher thus illustrates both a psychological and architectural perception of Gothic space. This is depicted in the opening passage as the Narrator provides the reader with his own account upon the first appearances of the house and its residing landscape. “I looked upon the scene before me-upon the mere house, and 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-with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium-the bitter lapse into every-day life-the hideous dropping of the veil.” (Poe. 1987: 231).
The professor of English David Punter (1949-) argues that “…Poe presses on a Gothic nerve: …at creating in short order a sense of an external landscape; but simultaneously the reader is led to wonder constantly whether this landscape is indeed really external or rather a projection of...