What relationship has existed between the narrator and Roderick Usher in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher"?

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Appropriately enough for an Edgar Allan Poe story, the relationship between the narrator and Roderick Usher is somewhat strange. Although they're supposed to have been friends since childhood, it's clear that the narrator doesn't really know Usher all that well. And as the story unfolds, and Usher's psychological condition progressively deteriorates, the narrator comes to look upon him less as a friend and more as an object of scientific curiosity. The narrator is a man of reason, a man of critical intellect, who uses his keen powers of observation to determine the presence of a mental disorder in Usher's feverish, over-heated brain. Yet the narrator's intellect can only really understand Usher as a mental patient rather than as a friend. It's only when he abandons critical methods of thinking to embrace a superstitious mindset that he's able to get into Usher's mind and gain some insight into his motives.

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Quite simply, the narrator and Roderick Usher were boyhood friends.  This is stated outright in the second paragraph of Poe's short story.  "Its proprietor, Roderick Usher, had been one of my boon companions in boyhood; but many years had elapsed since our last meeting."  Poe continues to confirm this fact throughout the story by continuing to call Usher "the companion of my early boyhood."  We also learn in the same paragraph that Usher feels that the narrator is still "his best and indeed his only personal friend" which in itself is strange because "although, as boys, we had been even intimate associates, yet I really knew little of my friend."  The narrator reveals that it was "the apparent heart that went with [Usher's] request" that made the narrator fly to Usher's side.  Truly, it is a strange situation.

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