illustration of a dark, menacing cracked house with large, red eyes looking through the windows

The Fall of the House of Usher

by Edgar Allan Poe

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In "The Fall of the House of Usher," how is Roderick’s condition analogous to the state of his home? Why does the house crumble at the end of the story?

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At the beginning of the short story, the narrator describes the House of Usher as a gloomy, eerie, decrepit home which permeates the surrounding atmosphere with terror and despair. The narrator refers to the home as the "mansion of gloom" and comments on its antique features. He mentions that the house is dilapidated, yet still standing despite the numerous exterior stones which are crumbling. The House of Usher looks neglected, and the narrator notices a large fissure extending from the roof to the front of the building. There is a Gothic archway which leads to several long, dark passages throughout the house. The rooms inside the mansion are vast and lofty with narrow windows. The narrator describes the inside of the house as having an "atmosphere of sorrow."

Roderick, its owner, seems to be the physical manifestation of the house. Roderick suffers from a mental illness and is extremely depressed throughout the story. His loss of sanity coincides with how the exterior of the home is gradually decaying. Similar to the dark, gloomy atmosphere inside the home, Roderick is also a melancholy person full of despair and anguish. At the end of the story, Madeline escapes from her tomb and breaks into the room where the narrator is reading to Roderick. Her appearance terrifies Roderick who dies of shock. As the narrator flees the home, a lightning bolt strikes the fissure of the house, and it crumbles to the ground. It is important to remember that the House of Usher is both the title of the home as well as the name of the family's lineage. The reason the house crumbles at the end of the story dramatically represents Roderick's death and end of his family's bloodline. Roderick, his home, and his family's bloodline have collapsed and cease to exist by the end of the story. 

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