The Fall of the House of Usher Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

The Fall of the House of Usher book cover
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How does Poe use personification in "The Fall of the House of Usher"?

Poe uses personification in "The Fall of the House of Usher" to describe the Usher mansion, which a number of scholars have called the "fourth character" in the story. Poe's use of personification makes the house more than just a backdrop to the story: it makes it come alive.

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Writers of Gothic literature often sought to inspire horror or fear within their readers. The Gothic was a sort of offshoot or subgenre of Romantic literature, and Romantics believed that intense emotion is more important to the human experience than just about anything else, including logic or reason. By expressing and eliciting intense emotion from readers, these writers hoped to capture something fundamental about being a human. There are few emotions more intense than horror or fear, and so Gothic writers often focused explicitly on the portrayal and creation of these feelings. They often use, in part, references to the supernatural—or at least the possibility of the supernatural—in order to produce these feelings. Poe personifies the ancestral home of the Usher family, giving it "vacant eye-like windows" that "sicken" the narrator's heart and make him feel rather depressed and "unnerved." He says,

I was forced to fall back upon the unsatisfactory conclusion, that while, beyond...

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