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's setting affect the story The Fall of the House of Usher?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I agree that the setting of "The Fall of the House of Usher" is all important. The house functions, like Madeline, as a mirror or twin of the main character, Roderick Usher. Even the name "House of Usher" refers both to the house itself and to the ancestral line of Ushers, of whom Roderick and Madeline are the very last.

Like Roderick and Madeline the house is sick. Madeline is dying of a disease that sometimes paralyzes her so that she seems dead. Roderick is pale, nervous, and sickly looking. His mind seems exceptionally morbid, as if he too is diseased, and he enjoys playing discordant notes on his guitar.

Like the human Ushers, the house of Usher seems sick and very gloomy. An atmosphere of depression hangs over it. It is covered with fungi and has a zig-zagged tiny fissure running through it.

It would be hard to find a setting more relentlessly and oppressively gloomy than that of the house, surrounding tarn, and blighted landscape, or a person more relentlessly gloomy and depressed than Roderick in his dark, Gothic home. The setting sustains the mood of foreboding that ends in the house cracking apart and falling, with its inhabitants, into the tarn.

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jweaver12 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The setting in Poe's Gothic tale, "The Fall of the House of Usher," is vital to the story as the setting (the House) is a character itself. When the narrator first sees the house he describes it as "bleak walls," "vacant eye-like windows," and "decayed trees." Poe provides the literal falling of the house which alludes to the fall of Roderick and all other inhabitants of the house. The narrator’s decent into madness echoes that of Roderick. Poe is showing not only Roderick’s insanity, but that all the inhabitants have been infected or cursed by the same decent. The tale becomes an encircling tale of doubling all associated with the House of Usher where everything mirrors the literal and figurative fall of the House (both the actual house and Roderick Usher).

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