Olalla By Robert Louis Stevenson And The Fall Of The House Of Usher By Edgar Allan Poe

2039 words - 8 pages

Since the conception of Gothic literature in the Victorian era, this genre bas maintained a stunning popularity. A key reasons of this lasting popularity of Gothic literature lies in the effectiveness with which Gothic fictions elicit the ever-present fear in the human mind by exposing the readers to a myriad of horror-evoking elements, either with a Gothic twist or in their unveiled forms (Hudson). Among these elements, the loss of freedom is a prominent theme that exist in many Gothic fictions. Like many other themes from Gothic literature, the theme of entrapment is presented in many forms, including the most evident form that is physical confinement, the subtler mental seclusion, and the narrative entrapment, a form of entrapment based on not the stories, but the voices of the narrators and the ways the narratees are perceived. Narrative entrapment arises when the readers' perception of a character is hindered or rendered incomplete by the biased observation of a less-than-omniscient external observer, in this case, the narrator. In both "Olalla" by Robert Louis Stevenson and "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe, there exist characters who are ensnared in all three forms of entrapment. However, even under similar duress, the said characters' motivations and the causes of their predicaments differ fundamentally. In "Olalla", with her personality fragmented by her emotional turmoils, Olalla chooses self-seclusion as a sacrifice, whereas in "The Fall of the House of Usher", Madeline is imprisoned through forceful entombment and complete removal of characterization.
Characters from both "Olalla" and "The Fall of the House of Usher" suffer various forms of physical confinements as results of the burden of ancestral bloodlines. In "The Fall of the House of Usher", Roderick suffers a psychological illness that is passed along the family bloodline, "a family evil" that causes "a morbid acuteness of the senses" and makes him abhor any form of exposure to outside environment, thus limiting his safety zone within the walls of the house (Poe 89). The description of this psychological malady insinuates that the family blood, a metonymy of the legacy of the House of Usher, is contaminated by a genetic defect, which is what imposes a physical confinement upon Roderick. Similarly, the family of Olalla is segregated from the outside society by the influences of their family inheritance. This is evidenced by their reluctance to accept a guest in the residencia despite their grim financial condition (Stevenson 184). Furthermore, the family of Olalla, like the Usher family, suffers various symptoms of inheritable neurological disorders, the most prominent of which being the mental retardation that is present to different extents in both Olalla's mother and her brother, Felipe (Stevenson 184). Such neurological illness prevents Olalla's family members from being exposed to the company of outside society and is thus a form of physical...

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