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In "The Fall of the House of Usher," what were Roderick's motives for burying Madeline...

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gov1234 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted December 6, 2010 at 1:24 PM via web

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In "The Fall of the House of Usher," what were Roderick's motives for burying Madeline alive when it seems that they had a close relationship?

Roderick states that Madeline is his closest companion, and the thought of her disease brings tears to his eyes.  However, he buries her alive.  I am confused by this.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 6, 2010 at 6:39 PM (Answer #1)

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You have asked a great question that really goes to the heart of this tale. We are never clear whether Roderick knowingly buries his sister alive out of pure malicious evil or whether it is just a mistake that he makes because of the curse that is upon the House of Usher. Consider what the narrator says as they look upon Madeline's face one last time before entombing her:

The disease which had thus entombed the lady in the maturity of youth, had left, as usual in all maladies of a strictly cataleptical character, the mockery of a faint blush upon the bosom and the face, and that suspiciously lingering smile upon the lip which is so terrible in death.

What is interesting is that the nature of Madeline's appearance accords exactly with the symptoms of her disease, illnesses of a "cataleptical character," and it is the narrator that reports this to us first hand. Although we are told at the conclusion of the story that Roderick "heard" her first movements in the coffin, we could perhaps excuse him for thinking this was just his fancy.

However, we are never precisely sure if Roderick buried her deliberately or if he can be excused because of his illness and the way that if effects his senses and the nature of her illness that does, we are told, give her an appearance of death.

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