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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Is Usher responsible for the death of his sister and the collapse of his home in "The Fall of the House of Usher"?

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It's never explicitly stated that Roderick is directly responsible for his sister's death. Given that he's mentally unstable, it's more than a distinct possibility. What clouds the issue is the fact that Madeline appears to have risen from the dead, so this inevitably raises the question of whether she was really dead in the first place or just shut away in the tomb by her deranged brother. We only have Roderick's word that she's dead, and like a lot of characters in Poe's stories, he's a thoroughly unreliable source of information.

However, what we can say with greater confidence is that there appears to be some kind of strange, supernatural force linking Roderick to both his sister and the creepy, crumbling house in which they reside. As H. P. Lovecraft once said, they all share a common soul.

A number of critics have argued that Madeline is the outward manifestation of Roderick's fear and mental torment. This would suggest that Roderick, in shutting Madeline away in a tomb, is desperately trying to avoid his deepest fears—without success.

In any case, whatever it is that holds Roderick, Madeline, and the house together also ensures that they will die together. Theirs is a common destiny which no one can alter. That being so, it doesn't seem fair to ascribe responsibility to Roderick for his sister's death and the collapse of the house. He is as much a plaything of dark, supernatural forces as anyone else.

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