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The Role Of Uncertainty In Poe's The Fall Of The House Of Usher. Uncertainty Leads To Suspense And Fear Which Drives Characters Towards Insanity And Causes Readers To Empathize With The Narrator

498 words - 2 pages

In "The Fall of the House of Usher," there is ambiguity surrounding Madeline's death and her return--neither the characters nor the readers know the cause of Madeline's death or if she was actually dead when buried. Soon after the burial, Usher starts to suspect that they had buried Madeline while she was still alive: "...I hear it, and have heard it....Many minutes, many hours, many days, have I heard it...yet I dared not speak! We have put her living in the tomb!" (28). This uncertainty creates trepidation and fear for Usher because he fears Madeline "is...hurrying to upbraid [him] for [his] haste" in burying her; he becomes apprehensive ...view middle of the document...

From being in constant fear and anticipation, Usher's actions become irrational, muttering to himself and "gazing upon vacancy for long hours, in an attitude of the profoundest attention, as if listening to some imaginary sound" (24). The cause of the hysteria and terror in Usher is unknown to the narrator for most of the story--until Usher finally admits that he suspected he buried Madeline alive. The narrator witnesses the strange changes coming over Usher, which begin to terrify him as they increase. "It was no wonder that his condition terrified--that it infected me. I felt creeping upon me, by slow yet certain degrees, the wild influences of his own fantastic yet impressive superstitions"(24). The mysteriousness of Usher's condition creates fear and suspense in the narrator because he feels "overpowered by an intense sentiment of horror, unaccountable yet unendurable" (25), and, like Usher, starts hearing all the sounds and occurrences with dread and fear. In "The Fall of the House of Usher," fear and suspense are created for the readers because they are not certain whether Madeline was dead or alive when she was buried. This creates fear and suspense because when Madeline escapes from the tombs, the readers do not know if she is real or a ghost. In addition, it is uncertain whether Usher buried her alive knowingly or accidentally. The suspicion caused by the uncertainty of Usher's intentions causes the readers to fear Usher and what will happen to him because of his attempt at murder.

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