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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What does the storm at the end of "The Fall of the House of Usher" symbolize?

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There are a few critical explanations that shed light on what the storm may symbolize in "The Fall of the House of Usher." The storm begins when Roderick becomes agitated over the noises he hears after interring his sister, Madeline, and becomes worse as the story develops.  Roderick and the narrator soon realize Madeline may not be dead, indicating that the storm may symbolize the growing tension that eventually kills both Roderick and Madeline and drives the narrator from the house. Storms are often used in Gothic texts to evoke feelings of fear, but more importantly, also suggest that something important is happening in the story.  Poe was particularly keen on evoking both emotion, especially melancholy, and helping readers quickly come to the end of the story after a climax had been reached--what he respectively calls the sublime and denoument. Important to note also is that the storm helps the reader realize the end of the House of Usher. Just as storms can often be devastating in nature, the lightening from the storm destroys the house, representing the end of the incestuous and perverse family Usher. Poe also participated in the "gothic explique" which is a technique used in Gothic texts to explain the supernatural.  Given that the lightening occurs when Madeline begins making noises, could rationally explain why she comes back to life.  Poe would certainly have been aware of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1831) which uses the same technique.

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