Edgar Allen Poe's Use of Gothic Setting in The Fall of the House of Usher
"The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe has a gothic horror story setting. Gothic means that the author emphasizes the mysterious, the horrible, the ghostly and the fear that can be aroused in the reader. Everyone knows that a gothic story or a ghost story will often have a setting that will be in an old, decaying mansion far out in a desolate countryside. The mansion will be filled with cobwebs, strange noises, bats, and an abundance of secret panels and corridors, in which people might be running and screaming in terror. The author uses every literary trick to give us an eerie sensation or to scare us if we hear an unexpected noise. The great descriptions of the mansion and the secret passageways are created for one reason and that is to give us a sense of the ghostly and the supernatural.
In "The Fall of the House of Usher" Poe utilizes many of the aspects of the gothic horror story. In addition to the gothic elements in the story, there is also a sense of remoteness and a sense of indefiniteness. This reason for that is because we are never told where "The Fall of the House of Usher" takes place in terms of setting because the house could be anywhere. The house could be in Ireland, Scotland, or even in Transylvania. This story takes place anywhere as long as the area is remote to the reader, removed from his or her everyday environment. In the story, the time is also set somewhere in the indefinite past because it cannot be in the present era, due to the setting of the castle. One of the main aims of the story is to create the single affect of
an eerie and ghostly atmosphere, and to do this the story emphasizes the physical aspects of the various structures in it. Such as the deep caverns or vaults where the Lady Madeline is buried:
"The vault in which we placed it (and which had been so long unopened that our torches, half smothered in its oppressive atmosphere, gave us little opportunity for investigation) was small, damp, and entirely without means of admission for light; lying at great depth, immediately beneath that portion of the building in which was my own sleeping apartment. The whole interior of a long archway through which we reached it, were carefully sheathed with copper. The door, of massive iron, had been, also, similarly protected. Its immense weight caused an unusually sharp grating sound as it moved upon its hinges" (Poe, 1353).
In the story there is a super-sensitive hero who is a person that cannot function well in the "normal" world. Roderick Usher has a super-sensitivity to the point of maladjustment because of his undefined illness:
"He suffered much from a morbid acuteness of the senses; the most insipid food was alone endurable; he could wear only garments of certain texture; the odors of all flowers were oppressive; his eyes were tortured by even a faint light; and...