“The Fall Of The House Of Usher”: Imagery Of Decay

1096 words - 4 pages

Deteriorating towns are generally filled with a mere handful of inhabitants still clinging to whatever life they used to have. Houses fall apart. Quality of life decreases. People become unstable due to their inability to provide for themselves and their families. This has been seen all over: the towns become relics and the people become charity cases. When the going gets tough the tough get going; however, those inhabitants who choose to stay rewrite their endings. Edgar Allan Poe’s use of imagery portraying decay in “The Fall of the House of Usher” serves to set up the final fate of the two main characters.
Roderick Usher is a victim of circumstance. The House he has known his whole life seems to have turned against him. Poe illustrates Roderick in a way that mirrors that of the undead: “cadaverousness of complexion”, “lips…thin and very pallid”, and “silken hair”. Not only is Roderick’s physical appearance declining, his mental stability is “incoherent” as well. His psychological health digresses as a result of the culmination of disturbing events in his life. According to an analysis by G. R. Thompson, the story features a conflict constructed by Poe “between reason and irrationality” (qtd. in Timmerman). At the beginning of the story, Roderick suffered from “acute bodily illness” and “nervous agitation” which seem to be mostly self-inflicted. These then morph into “restrained hysteria in his whole demeanor” as his sanity decreases even more. Roderick starts to lose his grip on reality and slips even further into the clutches of fear and confusion. This rapid decline in Roderick’s mental health is made evident to the reader through the narrators progressing fear of him and what will come of him in the imminent future. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is essentially a story following Roderick as a “fatal victim of terror in its unmediated condition” (Cook).
Throughout the story Poe develops a narrator of sound mind that progressively loses his stability and credibility. Although the narrator himself is not described, his actions and personality shine through in his descriptions of the awful decay he is experiencing first hand in the House of Usher. The narrator comes to the House to aid his dying friend, Roderick Usher. As he arrives at the House he comes upon an “aura of vacancy and decay… creating a pathologically depressive mood” (Cook). The state of the House is daunting to the narrator – he describes it with such features as “bleak walls”, “eye-like windows”, “rank sedges”, “decayed trees”, and “an utter depression of the soul”. These images foreshadow a less than pleasant future for the narrator and his dear friend Roderick. Poe continues to foreshadow the narrators turn of events with a description of the House’s “dark” and “comfortless” furniture. The House becomes a living hell for the narrator as he watches Roderick’s condition evolve and struggles to understand the mystery tying unfortunate events together. However, as the...

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