To begin with, Poe has carefully tailored the narrative in a manner to fit the theory of single effect. The unnamed narrator suggests that his main job is to narrate. His logical treatment and explanation of what happens throughout the story adds plausibility and credibility to the narrator. Darrel Abel described the narrator as “Anthropos” for he, the narrator, remains “uncharacterized, undescribed and even unnamed” (177). Although the reader does not know much about him, the attention is fully drawn instead to the strangeness in the House of Usher and the horror tour inside the house. Poe builds a strong connection between the narrator and the reader, “The reader represents Poe’s ideal ...view middle of the document...
The narrator is critical to the reader’s understanding the story. He is the one who takes the reader on a tour of the House of Usher. One of the most interesting things this narrator does is to point out again and again that the strange happenings of the House of Usher are difficult to be portrayed. Some of his statements are presented below:
“I should fail in any attempt to convey an idea of the exact character of the studies, or of the occupations, in which he involved me” (122).
“I would in vain endeavour to educe more than a small portion which should lie within the compass of merely written words” (ibid).
“I lack words to express the full extent, or the earnest abandon of his persuasion” (124).
The narrator’s above utterances render the story even more horrifying and bizarre. Readers find it scarier and crazier. The narrator functions as a filter by funneling the unbearable sights and anxiety into an exciting fear and makes the reader absorb that fear. The narrator’s quivering apprehension will capture the essence of some terrible anxiety and shields the reader from the displeasure and terror the reader might otherwise experience, “A roller coaster ride may scare us to death, but we gladly defy death for the elation of the thrills it promises.” (Louise J. Kaplan 55). In the tale of Usher, the elated feelings of risk and excitement replace the mental sufferings – depression, madness, anxiety – the reader would otherwise experience if he/she were to actually feel as Roderick feels (ibid).
Poe’s narrative creativity lets the reader see into the mind of the narrator who is the mere point of view for the reader to occupy and the main character of the story in a way that makes the reader receive the ideas and feelings through the narrator with whom the reader has an implicit connection. In D.H. Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature, the author states that Poe achieves unity of effect by using an effective narration and ridding himself of everything except what is precisely to the point: “Nothing adventitious is in his great stories, only the essentials, the minimum of characterization, plot, and atmosphere” (66).
Poe’s psychological approach to the story makes the connection between the reader and the narrator stronger and shows the strategy that Poe adopted in conveying the feelings from the text into the reader’s mind. Thus, what the reader experiences in the process of reading the text reveals exactly what happens to the narrator. In return, what happens to the narrator suggests the process the reader undergoes in the reading of Poe’s story: “The reader becomes an active mediator containing the psychological effects of the story’s utterance, so the narrator’s imagination records a series of psychological effects that constitute the action of Poe’s text” (Bieganowski 178).
The second element that Poe dedicates to achieving unity of effect is setting. Much of the horror in “The Fall of the House of Usher” is achieved through...