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1. The narrator approaches the House of Usher and delivers a detailed description of the decaying, melancholy House of Usher, which has “vacant, eye-like windows.” It is in this opening description that the narrator imbues the house with human qualities, and the house starts to become a character itself in the story.
2. Roderick Usher greets the narrator, an acquaintance from his childhood, and the narrator is shocked to discover the sickly state of Roderick, who is emotionally disturbed and complains of a terrible acuteness of his senses. He has called on the narrator for companionship during this dark time. He is deeply depressed and informs the narrator that he and his sister are the last of the Usher kin alive. Many of their ancestors have succumbed (and in this home) to diseases of the mind and body.
3. Roderick explains to the narrator that his sister, Madeline, is sick as well and bed-ridden most of the time. Her ailment is similar to Roderick’s, though she sometimes has cataleptic episodes where she appears to be dead but is really in a temporary coma-like state. The narrator sees her only once (living) as she drifts—mute, unresponsive, ghost-like—through the dark House.
4. Both Madeline and Roderick’s conditions deteriorate, and Madeline succumbs to her illness. The narrator and Roderick put her in a vault in a lower level of the house; Roderick will not contact doctors or undertakers to handle the body, for he fears the scientific establishment will want to pick apart Madeline’s body for research. Before Roderick and the narrator seal Madeline’s coffin, the narrator notes that, because Madeline is so freshly deceased, there is still a bright flush on her cheeks.
5. Roderick’s condition worsens, and the narrator, too, finds himself with heightened senses, especially as a treacherous storm approaches. Roderick asks the narrator to read him the tale of a knight, and as the plot of the story intensifies, the narrator hears terrific noises in the house. As the noises reach a fever pitch, Roderick, in a maniacal state, admits that he has buried his sister alive (thus explaining the flush on her cheeks) and has heard her rustling around in her coffin, scratching to get herself out, for days. The door of the chamber flies open, and Madeline appears, corpse-like and covered in blood. She falls forward onto Roderick, and “[bears] him to the ground a corpse.” They die simultaneously.
6. As the narrator flees the house, the house itself begins to crumble violently and is swallowed up by the “black, lurid” tarn below it. Now that the Usher race has reached its end, the house that seemingly drove many of the Ushers to madness and death, ends with them.
Here is a brief but concise chronology of the story mentioned above:
1. Narrator gets invited to house of Roderick Usher.
2. Narrator arrives, learns about the sickly state of the house and its occupants -- Madeline in particular.
3. Roderick entertains narrator, explains family situation, etc.
4. Madeline goes into cataleptic state, gets entombed alive, returns with bloody clothes.
5. House splits down the center, symbolizing the splitting of the family itself.
As I said, while this is a brief overview of the story's chronology, it in no way intended to be comprehensive. For a more complete chronology, I suggest you visit the summary page for this story in enotes.
just before the narrator begins reading"the mad trist of sir launcelot canning," he describes_________________________ which contributes to the atmosphere.
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