The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
“The Fall of the House of Usher,” by Edgar Allan Poe begins with the unidentified narrator arriving, alone, at “the melancholy House of Usher.” He had received a letter from a boyhood companion, Roderick Usher, begging that he come to visit him, explaining he was suffering from a terrible illness, and longed for the companionship of "his only personal friend."
Approaching the decaying old house, the narrator was struck by an overwhelming sense of gloom that seemed to envelop the estate. The very sight of the manor caused within him "an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart, an unredeemed dreariness." He remembers Roderick's family was noted for the fact that no new branch of the family had ever been generated. For centuries, the title of the estate had passed directly from father to son, so that the term "House of Usher" had come to refer both to the family and to the mansion.
Usher was a pale, ghostly man with long hair that seemed to float about his head. The plot is introduced when the reader learns that he suffered from an intense agitation, and explained to the Narrator that he cannot live in his condition, which consisted of a morbid acuteness of the senses that made most things unbearable. Usher’s twin sister, Madeline, was also severely ill, a "gradual wasting away of the person" that was beyond the powers of physicians to cure. The Narrator caught a glimpse of her that filled him with astonishment and dread.
For days the Narrator tried to distract his hypochondriac friend. Usher sang a song about a noble castle invaded by demons. This convinced the narrator that Usher was, indeed, crazy, especially when he informed him that he believed the very stones of his house were actually alive. In fact, he had long felt that the entire estate had, "moulded the destinies of his family" and made him what he was.
The plot is rounded out when Usher announced that Madeline was "no more," and the two of them carried Madeline's corpse to the grim underground vaults in a coffin. There they lifted the lid, and the Narrator observes a blush on her cheek. Nevertheless, they resealed the coffin and locked the vault's heavy iron door.
During the days that followed his sister's death, Roderick Usher roamed aimlessly, stared blankly into space, the luster gone from his eyes. Late one night, the Narrator found himself unable to sleep, and a terror took hold of in which he felt Usher’s condition infecting him. As he paced, Usher entered his room, with, “a species of mad hilarity in his eyes … restrained hysteria in his whole demeanor" (Poe, 372).
In an attempt to calm Usher, the narrator began to read aloud. But in the midst of a passage describing a knight who tears apart a wooden door, the Narrator thought he heard, somewhere in the house, the same cracking and ripping sound portrayed in the book. Ignoring it, he read on— this time, a passage that described the knight's fatal blow to a...