Introduction to The Fall of the House of Usher

Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Fall of the House of Usher” was originally published in September 1839. In the tale, the narrator visits a childhood friend who is sick and in need of company. The friend’s house is old and decrepit, and it seems to cause the madness of the last surviving Usher siblings, Roderick and Madeline. When Madeline succumbs to an illness, she is buried in a house vault, only to return after a premature burial. Madeline emerges from the vault the night of an intense storm and collapses on her brother in death. The narrator flees the house and looks back to see it sink into a swamp. Rather than imparting a specific lesson, Poe's story explores gothic elements of the supernatural and evil to convey a tale of horror.

A Brief Biography of Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) was an American writer who gained fame for his gothic tales. Poe’s life story makes it easy to see where the author got his ideas and how his work relates to his experience. First, his father abandoned the family; then his mother died when he was very young, and his foster father, John Allen, erratically swung between lenience and extreme discipline; finally, Poe married his much younger cousin Virginia, who died at an early age. It’s no wonder, then, that Poe's work focused on the macabre, the bizarre, and the outcast—the wonder is that he found a way to make such striking art from his suffering. Before his death at age forty, Edgar Allan Poe raised the American short story to a new level, writing works that completely modernized detective fiction, science fiction, and, of course, the horror story. His most well-known works include the poems “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee”; the short stories ”The Black Cat,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher”; and the novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Fall of the House of Usher

The Fall of the House of Usher

While there are a number of ways in which the character of Madeline Usher can be interpreted, one argument is that she symbolizes Roderick's worst fears—and fear itself in general. While Roderick...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2020, 11:53 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Fall of the House of Usher

The narrator undertakes the grim task of helping his friend Roderick lay the body of his sister, Madeline, in the Usher family tomb. The tomb is small, damp, and lacking natural light, and its...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2020, 11:35 am (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

At the end of Edgar Allan Poe's story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the narrator flees for his life, having witnessed the deaths of Roderick and Madeline Usher. He dashes out into a raging...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2020, 5:13 pm (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

The narrator of “The Fall of the House of Usher” does not engage in verbal irony in any overt way, which is to say that his recounting of events appears to be earnest and straightforward, despite...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2020, 11:49 am (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

When the narrator arrives at the house of Roderick Usher, he finds that his old friend is unwell. Roderick's complexion has faded, his hair has lost its luster, and he generally looks sickly....

Latest answer posted September 6, 2020, 11:42 am (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

In Poe’s chilling story "The Fall of the House of Usher," there are at least two valid ways to interpret Madeline Usher's character. The following are two possibilities that can be supported with...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2020, 11:27 am (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

In Poe's classic short story "The Fall of the House of Usher," the narrator visits his childhood friend Roderick Usher, who is suffering from "nervous agitation," paranoia, and depression in his...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2020, 12:45 pm (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

"The Fall of the House of Usher" centers on an unnamed narrator who goes to visit his friend Roderick Usher in his mysterious and gloomy home. Upon arrival, the narrator discovers that both...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2020, 12:55 pm (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

Early on in the story, the narrator mentions that Roderick Usher has never had an outgoing or jovial temperament. However, on his arrival, the narrator is surprised to be greeted with a vivacious...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2020, 12:41 pm (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

When the narrator first arrives at the Usher house, he finds Roderick in a dreadful condition, with an unknown illness having "terribly altered" the young man, reducing him to a shadow of his...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2020, 11:32 am (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

One can argue that Poe chooses for Roderick and Madeline to be twins to emphasize that they are doubles or doppelgängers, a term in Freudian thought that refers to the uncanny. The uncanny, an...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2020, 12:15 pm (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

When the narrator arrives at the house of his childhood friend, he is surprised to see how much Roderick Usher has changed. Although Roderick is happy to see him, it is clear that his health is...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2020, 12:02 pm (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

Through the story's unnamed narrator, Poe offers a detailed description of the Usher house. It is very old and discolored, and fungus covers it and hangs from its eaves, looking like "a fine...

Latest answer posted September 5, 2020, 11:23 am (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

Roderick Usher dies when his sister, Madeline, thought to have died shortly before, emerges from her grave, enters Roderick's room, and collapses on top of him. Both siblings die. It is not clear...

Latest answer posted September 5, 2020, 11:34 am (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

Some time after Madeline Usher passes away, it becomes apparent to the narrator—and to readers—that either Madeline is not dead or that, having died, she somehow stirs in the vault where she has...

Latest answer posted September 5, 2020, 11:48 am (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

Toward the beginning of Edgar Allan Poe's story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the narrator introduces Madeline Usher, sister of his host, Roderick Usher. The narrator catches a brief glimpse of...

Latest answer posted September 5, 2020, 1:57 pm (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

Roderick Usher suffers from an unharmonious psychological state, described as melancholy or terror at various points. One gets the distinct impression that Roderick has been mentally unbalanced for...

Latest answer posted September 5, 2020, 11:30 am (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

At the end of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," eponymous house, in which the Usher family has lived for generations, dramatically collapses. This fall is the literal meaning of...

Latest answer posted September 5, 2020, 11:20 am (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

One of the central themes of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" is insanity. The Usher family is rife with corruption and incest, and as a result the last remaining members of the...

Latest answer posted September 5, 2020, 11:31 am (UTC)

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The Fall of the House of Usher

Edgar Allan Poe published "The Fall of the House of Usher" in 1839. Nine years before, in 1830, crews made a gruesome discovery while tearing down the old Hezekiah Usher house in Boston, which had...

Latest answer posted September 5, 2020, 3:21 pm (UTC)

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Summary