The Fall of the House of Usher Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

The Fall of the House of Usher book cover
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What is the single effect of the story "The Fall of the House of Usher"?

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Kristy Wooten eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There can be many different answers for this question.  I would say that one cannot pinpoint one single effect, to be quite honest.  I would say that one primary effect would be shock/terror.  The reader is shocked and perhaps terrorized by the ending of the story when Madeline emerges from the tomb and falls onto Roderick, who dies immediately.  This is an unexpected ending that is quite shocking.  Other effects might include making the reader think about what isolation can do to people.  Madeline and Roderick were isolated from society.  This affected them emotionally and intellectually. Long-term isolation can have devastating effects.

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Interesting question. In Poe's essay "A Theory of the Short Story" he says that "a certain unique or single effect {should] be wrought out." But later in the essay Poe also says that the aim or purpose of the story should be truth. He writes "Truth is often, and in very great degree, the aim of the tale. . . "

It is too easy to say that Poe's main interest in writing this story was to create terror. Terror is certainly a main component of the story and certainly the details. The crack in the house, the "cracked" state of Roderick's mind, to the horrible sounds coming from downstairs, the final appearance and death of both Madeline and Roderick and finally the disintegration of the house all contribute to that single effect.

However, the interpretation of the story is not complete without trying to discover what truth Poe was trying to uncover. If we look at the verse that Poe begins the story with, we learn it is about a lute which needs to be touched in order to work properly. If we consider that Roderick is a type of "lute" or artist who has lost all touch with reality, especially since his twin sister became ill, then Poe is really discussing the important of human love and contact on artists. Not even the narrator's presence can make up for Madeline's absence and he therefore, loses touch with reality. So much so that he buries her alive.

So the truth Poe is trying to communicate is that artists need human love and contact in their lives in order to stay creative.

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