Reliability Of Usher's Perspective On Madeline

1313 words - 6 pages

Throughout The Fall of the House of Usher, Poe chooses to reveal Lady Madeline’s illness through the perspective of her brother, Roderick, rather than giving readers an unbiased perspective of her illness. Considering that the only description of Madeline’s madness comes from Roderick, who himself had a compromised mental state, one must question the reliability of Roderick’s description of Madeline’s illness. One must closely examine the nature of Roderick’s mental illness in order to fully understand his inability to comprehend the reality of Madeline’s illness. After carefully analyzing Roderick’s hypochondria and Madeline’s escape, one will conclude that the Roderick Usher’s mental state renders his testimony throughout the story an unreliable depiction of reality. Therefore, his discernment of Lady Madeline’s illness cannot be relied upon; putting all of Roderick’s claims throughout the story into question.
Reader’s will not get a first hand observation of Lady Madeline’s mental state because they only witnesses examples of her illness through Roderick Usher’s perspective. One is first made aware of Madeline’s mental disorder when Usher explains that his own affliction is an effect of his sister’s illness. “He admitted...that much of the peculiar gloom which thus afflicted him could be traced...to the severe and long continued illness of his beloved sister...A settled apathy, a gradual wasting away of the person …”” (p.7). After Usher reveals his perception of his sister’s suffering, she enters and leaves the room without speaking, and “dies” soon after. The narrator implies that Madeline’s silence may have been a part of the cataleptic character associated with her illness. The reader is never given a chance to see Madeline in a state of illness. Although Madeline’s silence may be interpreted as a symptom of her disorder, the reader never witnesses a psychotic episode. Madeline’s quiet can be attributed to factors other than psychosis; she may have been shy, or perhaps she did not want to interrupt her brother as he was visiting with an old friend. Although other explanations of Madeline’s shyness are purely speculative, attributing her silence to madness would have been just as theoretical had Usher not previously mentioned that his sister suffered from an illness. Once Usher plants the notion of his sister illness in ones mind, the natural course of reasoning is to perceive every misstep of Madeline’s as madness. But, in reality the only direct evidence that Madeline may have been ill, comes from Usher.
Usher’s analysis of his sister’s mental state leads him to believe that his sister is ill, but the reliability of his diagnosis must be questioned when one realizes that Usher himself suffers from a compromised mental state. When Madeline leaves the room in silence without exhibiting any real symptom of mental disorder, Poe curiously describes Usher’s ill deposition, rather than detailing symptoms that would lead one...

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