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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Show how "The Fall of the House of Usher" is an example of Gothic literature using quotations.

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Some characteristic features of the Gothic novel include mysterious and gloomy settings, characters who are insane, supernatural beings like ghosts or monsters (think Dracula or Frankenstein's monster), romance, curses, death, and so on.

The story opens on a:

dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens.

The scene is very gloomy indeed. The trees are "decayed," and the narrator feels an "utter depression of soul" that he likens to taking opium. His heart feels "sick," and he feels the "mystery" of the...

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The Fall of the House of Usher belongs in the category of gothic fiction. Gothic fiction is a genre that is focused primarily on combining elements of horror, death, decay, rot, ruin, chaos, to create stories that simultaneously entrance and terrify the reader. The Fall of the House of Usher includes all of these, as the quotes from the text below will show:

The way the story starts off immediately indicates that it a part of the gothic fiction genre. The very description of the house itself is quite gothic in nature, with Poe using terms such as "bleak walls," "decayed trees," and "utter depression," setting the theme for the rest of the story as dark and grim. (Quote: "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 ...").  The inside of the house is the same, with, "the sombre tapestries of the walls, the ebon blackness of the floors,." The entire House of Usher is in a state of decay and perpetual darkness.

The residents of the doomed house are no different. Roderick Usher is described as having a "cadaverousness of complexion" and a, " ghastly pallor of the skin," likening him to a dead body though he is still living. 

We are then introduced to the Lady Madeline, Usher's sister, who is described as deathly ill when we first meet her. She then dies (allegedly), and the motif of death and decay remains strong. (Quote: "At the request of Usher, I personally aided him in the arrangements for the temporary entombment. The body having been encoffined, we two alone bore it to its rest.")

The element of horror is introduced near the end of the story, when Usher pronounces, "We have put her living in the tomb!" Most people would likely consider being buried alive one of the worst ways to die. However, somehow, the coffin does not contain her. She is somehow able to break free of her tomb and exact her revenge. "For a moment she remained trembling and reeling to and fro upon the threshold — then, with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the person of her brother, and in her violent and now final death-agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse, and a victim to the terrors he had anticipated." However, there is more death to come. As the narrator flees the house, a storm destroys it. 

The Fall of the House of Usher is a story of death, ruin, and horror, making it a prime example of Gothic literature. I have only collected quotes from some of the major plot moments in the story, but virtually every sentence features the elements of Gothic fiction that I first mentioned.