What is noteworthy about the description of Usher’s house?"The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is no question that the home is a reflection of the life choices, and lifestyles, of its occupants. A home where dread, disease, and death are all over the place cannot reflect anything other than similarly negative visuals. It is no surprise, then, that the House of Usher looks the way that it looks.

The House of Usher is aging fast and excessively, just like Usher, its master. Moreover, it is deteriorating and being consumed by opportunistic fungi the same way that unfortunate circumstances and genetic deficiencies are finishing off the Usher clan.

Its principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity. The discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves.

The house seems to be rotting and cracking and may be on the brink of collapsing:

The eye of a scrutinizing observer might have discovered a barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn.

Aside from the physical parallels between the decaying and once majestic House of Usher and Usher himself, let's not forget that the house itself has seemingly imbibed the atmosphere that surrounds the inhabitants of the place. It is an atmosphere of death, desolation, disease, and "ending." As Poe narrates, there is also the pervasive sense of a state of "constitutional and family evil."

Usher himself is decaying. His own corporeal strength and health are failing beyond repair, much like the house. Hence, it is as if the house has also absorbed the psyche of its master, a man who openly declares his state of despair, his fears, and his terrible state of mind:

I shall perish . . . must perish in this deplorable folly. Thus, thus, and not otherwise, shall I be lost.

The spirit of defeat in Usher makes it evident that everything that surrounds him must carry the same empty, negative energy.

In this unnerved—in this pitiable condition—I feel that the period will sooner or later arrive when I must abandon life and reason together, in some struggle with the grim phantasm, FEAR.

The negative and pressing atmosphere of the once-beautiful House of Usher is definitely one of its most noteworthy characteristics.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since Edgar Allan Poe insisted that his short stories had a single effect, the description of the house at the beginning of "The Fall of the House of Usher" is, indeed, noteworthy.  For one thing, it becomes apparent that the house is personified somewhat as the narrator describes the "vacant eyelike windows."  This personification of the windows is not unlike the description of Roderick Usher, who has a "luminousness of ...eye [that] had utterly gone out" and who also "stares about him."  Later in the story, the narrator also describes Roderick,

His eyes were bent fixedly before him, and throughout his whole countenance there reigned a stony rigidity.

Along with the description of the windows, there are other parallels between the Usher's house and the Usher family.  For instance, the macbre setting of the white trunks of decaying trees, the rotting mansion, and the bleak walls and interior gloom are synonymous with the Ushers, "the last of the ancient race" and their family tree that has no "enduring branch," as well as the white, deathlike appearance of Roderick Usher, not to mention his sister Madeline, who has become a cadaver. And, then, as Roderick deteriorates into madness and Madeline is resurrected to wreak destruction, the house, too, which has a great fissure, crumbles and falls itself, thus completing the parallels and the double entendre of the title "The Fall of the House of Usher."    

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The Fall of the House of Usher

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