For much of Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Fall of the House of Usher," the character of Madeline is seen by the narrator only sporadically, and Poe offers no physical description of the sister of the narrator's old friend, Roderick Usher. Early in the story, not long after the narrator has arrived at the Usher estate, he is visiting with Roderick when he spies the tormented sister only briefly:
"While he spoke, the lady Madeline . . . passed through a remote portion of the apartment, and, without having noticed my presence, disappeared. I regarded her with an utter astonishment not unmingled with dread; and yet I found it impossible to account for such feelings. A sensation of stupor oppressed me as my eyes followed her retreating steps."
The reader is now introduced to the figure who will be at the center of this macabre story while appearing only intermittently. Madeline's presence is always felt, but she is rarely seen, and that is the way Roderick prefers it. The narrator is very...
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