In "The Fall of the House of Usher," what do Roderick's paintings and music seem to express?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Having learned that Roderick Usher suffers from a nervous disorder that heightens his senses, the narrator essays to cheer Usher by engaging with him in the artistic endeavors of reading, painting, and playing music, feeling that these aesthetic activities will soothe his soul's turmoil. As he listens to Roderick play the guitar, for instance, the narrator senses the the man's sensitive, creative energies while at the same time, he perceives the inner, dark turmoils:

His long improvised dirges will ring forever in my ears.  Among other things, I hold painfully in mind a certain singular perversion and amplification of the wild air of the last waltz of Von Weber. 

Roderick's paintings, too, transcend "touch by touch into vaguenesses," causing the narrator to shudder as "there arose out of the pure intensity of intolerable awe" that the narrator has ever felt even when he contemplated the "concrete reveries" of Johann Henrich Fuseli, a Swiss-Anglo painter known for scene of horror and the supernatural as in The Nightmare.

Further, the narrator describes a "phantasmagoric conception" of Usher that closely resembles the foreshadows the details of Madeline's death/rising:  

an immensely long and rectangular vault...dark...yet a flood of intense rays rolled throughout.

Certainly, Roderick Usher's artistic endeavours reveal a disturbing strangeness that points to a tortured sensibility from a mind that is  evidently in disorder.


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