Poe's Use Of Setting Is His Three Short Stories, "The Cask Of Amontillado," "The Pit And The Pendulum," And "The Fall Of The House Of Usher."

1796 words - 7 pages

Edgar Allan Poe's Use of SettingSetting is the physical background of a story. Normally explained at the beginning, it tells the time and place of the story's action. Words take the place of paints in describing textures, images, sounds, colors, and sometimes even tastes, creating a picture in the reader's mind in which he or she can place the story's characters and actions. In identifying the setting, one should start by determining the town and year in which the story takes place. It is useful to consider how the nature of the events changes with the settings. The kinds of events that take place in a grocery store are usually different from those that occur in a graveyard or tomb. In three of Edgar Allan Poe's short stories, "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Pit and the Pendulum," and "Fall of the House of Usher," he uses setting to paint a dark and gloomy picture in the reader's mind. Easily associating darkness with death, Poe is able to set the mood of the story before any action has taken place. Setting can be used for a variety of purposes; a single point of the setting may be described in detail, making it stand out to the reader, usually later having a strong effect on the protagonist."Poe did not evoke a historical setting for his stories" (Columbian Companion, 16). In "Fall of the House of Usher," Poe has the protagonist describe the house and its surroundings as he is led into the mansion, using the setting as a key element to the mood of the story. Usher's house, its windows, bricks, and dungeon are all used to make a dismal atmosphere. The "white trunks of decayed trees," the "black and lurid tarn," and the "vacant, eye-like windows" contribute to the gloomy atmosphere (Usher, 178). Here the mansion itself quickly changes the spirit of the protagonist, also setting the mood for the rest of the story. Using words such as "rank" and "bleak," he uses the house's surroundings and the overall appearance of the mansion as symbols of death, foreshadowing Madeline of Usher's demise and Roderick Usher's vile wrong doings. The narrator describes the house as having "...an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven," after claiming from the beginning of the story that the narrator sensed something unusual and supernatural about the house (Usher, 179). Here Poe uses the house as a symbol of the disposition of the couple. The house seems to barely be holding together, just as the Usher family is. Just as the remaining family is divided by Madeline's death, the house bisects itself along the fissure which was before scarcely visible. Early in the story, the fissure in the wall is observed by the narrator. It represents Roderick's love for his twin sister, Madeline, was dying just as she was. Another strong point in the setting is a picture inside the Usher mansion. The wickedness of the house is further revealed as the narrator describes it; "A small picture presented the interior of an immensely long and rectangular vault or tunnel,...

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