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The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe is a masterpiece. This short story is classified as gothic horror, and it is certain to leave an impression on every reader. Furthermore, it contains a plethora of enigmatic symbols and complex characters. This article would demonstrate that The Fall of the House of Usher is worth reading and thought-provoking by analyzing the story’s symbols.
After starting to read the plot, everyone can sense the mood of the setting because Poe describes the scene in obsessive detail. The air is commonly used for a variety of purposes. The writer makes use of it to covey concept, effectiveness and images. It sets up a mood and indicates future events. Symbols are also used in order to help to reveal the theme though the atmosphere. Poe uses every word to make a gloomy mood. For instance, the house itself, its bricks, windows create a depressing atmosphere of despair and misery. He uses descriptive words such as decayed, strange, peculiar, gray, mystic, gothic, pestilent, dull and sluggish to create the atmosphere. All devices, which are used in the story, contribute to making it deep and creating the mood. Moreover, he uses repetition. He uses the repeated application of the words: dull, dark, gloom. It gives the confident feeling that the atmosphere is gloomy and terrible. It can be observed in this part:

During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was—but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit… (Poe 3).

The name of Roderick Usher can also be considered as a symbol. The word “usher” is a door keeper. Taking it into the considerations, one can come to conclusion that Usher opens the door to frightening the world for the teller. Roderick Usher is the last member of the family. He has no children or heirs. He is old, ill and going to die. His house is old, terrible, and dark and makes an impression of despair. Roderick knows that his death is the death of the family line. So Usher is a symbol and the door keeper is symbolic reference of Usher.

The Usher family is a reflection of the sensitive civilization. It is fated to be buried by horror. The canvas symbolizes evil and the malaria seems to be something supernatural, illusion. The house can be compared with the body of Roderick Usher. The house encapsulates things that can be regarded as the illusion on his mind. It looks like the trip to the depth of self. Besides, Poe describes the house in obsessive detail. Everything concerning the house is seems to be in decline and neglect. It coincides with the health conditions of occupants.

The vacant-like windows are one more symbol of the story. It can have several meanings. It may be Usher’s cadaverous eyes. Besides, it may reveal his sister Madeline’s cataleptic gaze. And the last one, that is the most suitable, is the emptiness of life in Usher’s house. Poe uses this symbol in order to describe the evil which goes through the whole story:

I looked upon the scene before me—upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain— upon the bleak walls—upon the vacant eye-like windows— upon a few rank sedges—and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees—with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium—the bitter lapse into every-day life—the hideous dropping off of the veil (Poe 3)

The small lake and the bridge over it also have interpretations. The lake may symbolize several things. It can be Madeline, the twin of Roderick, who reflects his personality. It may mean the image of reality. And though the reflection of the water is exact, the image is upside down. It leaves a possibility that characters see false reality. Moreover, the lake can mean that Ushers want to isolate their world from the outside world. In this case, the bridge is the only connection between Ushers and outside world. It is a symbolic reference of the narrator who is Usher’s only link to other people. Poe uses it to show the need to contact people as the bridge in life.

The reflection of the house also shows that everything here is wrong. It is one of the main symbols. It refers not only to the house but also to the family. Poe uses it in order to give readers a hint concerning Usher’s family.

The storm symbolizes the bitter emotions. They are experienced by characters in the story. Poe uses this symbol to show the emotions people feel in their lives.

The images inside the house symbolize the mad state of mind of its occupants. Poe uses ghastly images in order to reveal his gothic style. The ghastly image is the symbol and madness is it’s the symbolic reference.

In the middle of the story, Usher paints a picture and reads a book. There is a poem which is called “The haunted palace”. It tells about a wonderful palace with green surroundings. Here evil things are depicted in robes of sorrow. The palace can be compared with the house of Usher. Moreover, robes of sorrow coincide with Madeline’s burial robes.

When the narrator speaks about Madeline, Usher calls him a madman several times. It seems to strange, taking into account that Roderick and Madeline are twins. But it is interesting to know that even the name of the girl elaborates the idea of madness and malady. Historically, the former pronunciation of the word “Madeline” is was identical with that of the word “maudlin”. It is the adjective which describes the combination of sadness, foolishness and sentiments.

The collapsing of the house straight down into the lake is one of the main symbols. It means the collapsing of Usher’s family line. Poe uses it to show the end of Usher’s family tree. It is very strong symbol and it gives a feeling of crash and breakdown. It looks as if not only the family is dead, but even a memory about it doesn’t exist at all.

After the house collapses into the lake, full, blood-red moon appears. It is a symbol of bloodshed and death:

The radiance was that of the full, setting, and blood-red moon which now shone vividly through that once barely-discernible fissure of which I have before spoken as extending from the roof of the building, in a zigzag direction, to the base. While I gazed, this fissure rapidly widened—there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind—the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight—my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder—there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters—and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the “House of Usher” (Poe 25).

Roderick dies and his house dies with him. It falls as soon as the narrator leaves it.

Poe uses the narrator of the story in order to make it real. With the help of narrator, readers can feel and endure emotions together with the characters. While reading the story, the reader feels as if he lived in that moment, as if he were in that very place near characters and feared together with the narrator and Roderick Usher.

In conclusion, Edgar Allan Poe had his own unsuppressed style. But his works are not easy to interpret. The same is with The Fall of the House of Usher. It is one of his masterpieces which are full of madness and mind troubles, symbols and interpretations. Symbolism is the most distinctive feature of this story. It gives the story life, makes it interesting, mysterious and unusual. It makes readers think and try to understand the real state of things. The most important symbols are Usher himself, his house and fall of it. Poe uses a number of symbols in order to describe the state of things, characters, emotions they endure, actions, place and mood. His words evoke the feeling of depression, darkness, madness and horror. The variety of symbols gives the readers food for thought as the story reflects people insight and psychology.

Works Cited

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Fall of the House of Usher. 1839.

Wenfang Pang, Diqiu Wang, Shanshan Hu. Gothicism in The Fall of the House of Usher. Air Force Logistics College, Xuzhou, China, 2015.

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