There is, of course, no such thing as the perfect family, although many families attempt to present the perfect family image. If we had insights into the families who claim to be perfect or ones who claim "satisfaction," surely we would begin to see the fissures and "tokens of instability" in their foundations (Poe 720). Three stories from the last half of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century -- Poe's "The fall of the House of Usher," Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," and Joyce's "The Dead"-- provide us with three types of troubled families, all three of whom seemed to provide "satisfaction," yet which have fissures and instabilities.
Roderick Usher's ancient mansion in Edgar Allen Poe's famous story, seen from a distance, seems to have a structurally sound foundation, but it does not. "While I gazed, this fissure rapidly widened -- there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind -- the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight -- my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder -- there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters -- and the deep and dark tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the 'House of Usher' (Poe 732). Typically, the average American family goes through financial difficulties, marital problems, or long term illnesses -- all disturbances in the family. In some cases, these crises can destroy the family. Usually, however, a family will not fall apart. When families are faced with a continuous cycle of crises that are kept hidden, then, because of the accumulation of problems, eventually, we see "the mighty walls rushing asunder (Poe 732).
In "The Fall of the House of Usher," Roderick Usher's house is an emblem of the condition of his family. In the beginning set of the story, an old friend of Roderick's, the narrator, has visited him after many years. This occasion seemed satisfying on the surface when Roderick pleasurably greets the narrator at the door. Almost immediately, the narrator senses the "tokens of instability" as he closely analyzes Roderick. Roderick, at first, seems to be in denial of his manic depression; he attempts to uphold the family tradition by living in the decaying mansion. The narrator has a close encounter with Roderick and sees that he is a "Madman"; he is aware that Roderick is deprived of happiness, and the narrator can see the "fissures" in Usher's life. The house seems to be well built yet has fissures.
Both the house and Roderick suggest specious images of sturdiness. The House of Usher could easily fall apart because of its hidden dilapidated condition. The old house was built a long time ago, so it has deteriorated to the point that the slightest disturbance will destroy the house. In the same manner, for many years Roderick has been depressed and has been keeping his misery to himself to the point where he can stand it no longer. Loneliness may have corrupted him, and finally, he has to...