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

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What are examples of symbolism in "The Fall of the House of Usher"?

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mperez-mugg21 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It is also the case that the twins Madeline and Roderick are also symbolic in their nature.  For Poe, the story itself is about the duality of human nature and the struggle between the dualism of emotion/body and rationality/mind within the individual.  Roderick represents the human innate mental capacity as he is a character who is all mind in a weak and deteriorating body.  Roderick is constantly engaged in the intellectual; he engages almost entirely in reading, making music, and creating art.  Conversely, his doppleganger Madeline, is entirely a description of her body without reference to her mind.  Madeline is "the gradual wasting away of a person" and most notably a body/corpse in the end of the story.  The two are unable to survive without one another as demonstrated by Madeline's return from the tomb to reclaim her twin.  This symbolism suggests that the human body and mind struggle to exist within the same individual but are ultimately necessary to complete each person.  Moreover, denial of the body or the mind results in an untenable existence and the only way to achieve true harmony is to accept the necessity of both the mind and the body.  

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You can actually start with the title of the story, which alludes to the absolute chaos that lurks within the mansion. This "broken" house is "falling" in every way. Genetically speaking, the Ushers clearly sound like they are the product of generations of inbreeding, or else generations of careless mating. They are a sickly clan, vulnerable, and weak. 

He suffered much from a morbid acuteness of the senses; the most insipid food was alone endurable; he could wear only garments of certain texture; the odours of all flowers were oppressive; his eyes were tortured by even a faint light; and there were but peculiar sounds, and these from stringed instruments, which did not inspire him with horror. 

The Ushers' penchant for isolation also places them in a somewhat supernatural realm where they exist with the world, but not "in" the same world as everyone. It is as if "the house of Usher" is the only niche where they can actually exist...and now, it can no longer resist it: it is falling apart. 

The house, as well as its resident, is described:

with an utter depression of soul which I can...

(The entire section contains 5 answers and 774 words.)

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