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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How do setting and character relate to each other in "The Fall of the House of Usher"?

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What is important to realise in this excellent gothic short story is that the setting and the location of the ill-fated House of Usher relates precisely to the characters who dwell within it, and the way in which the house is described matches the stagnation and inner-rot that has beset the characters of Roderick and Madeleine. Note for example how the narrator describes the scene as he finally arrives at the House of Usher to see his old friend:

I looked upon the scene before me—upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain—upon the bleak walls—upon the vacant eye-like windows—upon a few rank sedges—and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees—with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveler upon opium—the bitter lapse into every-day life—the hideous dropping off of the veil.

The image is one of decay and barrenness, shown through the "few rank sedges" and the "decayed trees" that adorn the landscape. Note, too, how the house is almost personified by the "bleak walls" and "vacant eye-like windows" to suggest a stern and rather terrifying appearance. The emotional feeling of despair and disbelief that the narrator feels perfectly captures the fear and foreboding that his arrival at the House of Usher brings. This is reinforced when he sees Roderick and finds out about his plight and that of his sister. The problems that they face show the same sterility and decay as beset the house, and therefore it is only fitting that when both characters die, the house itself should "die" or be destroyed. Both the characters and the house are so inextricably intertwined that if one dies, both fall together. 

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