In "The House of Usher", what might Madeline and the widening fissure, or crack, symbolize?symbolic meaning of Madeline symbolic meaning of house's crack Edgar Allan Poe's "The House of Usher"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his macabre short story, "The House of Usher," Edgar Allan Poe employs one of his techniques which he uses, the double entendre.  That is, the narrative and its ideas turn and duplicate themselves in meaning  Madeline and the house itself are examples of this use of double entendre. 

As the title of Poe's story, "The House of Usher" the implication is made that the narrative will be about a family and its history.  And, while this is true, the title is a double entendre since the structural house, also is the house of Usher, or as put in Modern English, the Ushers' house.  Thus connected, the fissure in the mansion is symbolic of the genetic breakdown of the Usher family, a degeneration that is most apparent in the character of Madeline Usher, the feminine, or physically weaker, side of the twins, Roderick and Madeline.  But, it is also manifested in Roderick, who, experiences "a strong shudder over his whole person" much like the "shuddering" of the house. In addition, Madeline is a double entendre; her physical ailments are manifested in Roderick's mental ailments; both have the same meaning derived from the fact that the Usher line is far too thin and they are twins who share genetic traits. Thus, Madeline's bizarre physical condition symbolizes the deterioration of Roderick's mind.

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The Fall of the House of Usher

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