illustration of a dark, menacing cracked house with large, red eyes looking through the windows

The Fall of the House of Usher

by Edgar Allan Poe

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Plot analysis

“The Fall of the House of Usher” follows a traditional story arc with conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. The opening scene of the narrator riding up to an old and ominous house foreshadows the darkness to come. The main conflict that drives the story is the narrator’s coming to help Roderick recover from an illness. Action rises with Madeline's apparent death and Roderick's descent into madness over his fears about the house being sentient. The raging storm, Madeline’s rising from the dead, and her subsequent collapse onto Roderick, which kills them both, acts as the climax. Action falls when the narrator flees the house and watches it sink into the tarn. Because Poe intentionally leaves the story without a lesson, the only resolution is the sight of the tarn and the realization that neither the family nor the house will ever be seen again.

Point of view

Poe tells the story through a first-person narrator who recounts the events as he remembers them. Thus the point of view is important to analyze when studying “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The fallibility of the narrator’s memory and his lack of confidence in the supernatural things he sees cast the events of the story into question. Readers cannot be certain of what is true and what is skewed by time and imagination. The narrator employs his ability to reason, explaining potentially supernatural events with logic, but as the story goes on, terror floods his analytical mind. The corruption of the rational narrator creates more uncertainty around whether or not the events are supernatural or merely products of the narrator’s isolation and madness. The unreliable narrator destabilizes the story. The lack of a definitive answer as to what happened leaves readers to decide if the story’s events are the result of madness or supernatural forces—or both.


Poe does not specify the story’s location or time period. This makes it possible for the story to take place in a variety of settings. This lack of specificity makes the story engaging, because it allows readers to fill in details for themselves and insert themselves into the narrator’s story telling. However, Poe does carefully control the mood by setting the story in a desolate countryside in autumn. The story takes place entirely in and around a gloomy mansion, adding to the feeling of isolation and sense of entrapment.


After arriving at the House of Usher, the narrator makes a direct comparison between the house and the family itself. The mansion acts as a symbol of the once great Usher family that has fallen to ruin. The house is isolated and cut off from the outside world just like the Usher siblings. As the house decays, so do the Ushers and their mental state. The decrepit interior reflects the state of mind of both Roderick and Madeline as isolation eats away at their sanity. The house eventually sinks into the tarn, signifying the end of the Usher line. The symbolism of the house and the family highlight the fact that all things decay.

The narrator also acts as a symbol of both rationality and a bridge to the outside world for the Usher siblings. The narrator thinks critically about fear and its causes from the first time he sees the house. He attempts to determine what specifically about the house makes him uneasy and recognizes that he what he fears could be the result of his imagination. However, the longer the narrator stays in the house, the more fear overcomes him, showing that fear and imagination often overcome...

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rationality. Although doctors come and go to monitor Roderick’s and Madeline’s health, the narrator is their main connection to the outside world. Roderick’s letter asking the narrator to come cheer him up demonstrates that the doctors’ presence does not ease his isolation. Since the narrator is a symbol of rationality, he also then represents Roderick’s connection to sanity. The speaker’s final flight from the house shows the Ushers’ complete departure from reality. Their last tie to the rest of the world is broken.

Historical context

The story can be read as a reaction to transcendentalism and Romanticism, two of the prevailing philosophical movements of the 18th and 19th centuries. Transcendentalism claims that divinity is present in all nature and humanity and that a person can transcend the material world through the study of nature. In contrast, Poe portrays nature as malevolent, humanity as mad, and the supernatural as evil. While transcendentalism praises nature and its essential goodness, Poe depicts nature as harmful. All that is natural in the story—the trees, fungi, tarn, and even atmosphere—is infectious and corruptive to the mind. Roderick’s connections to the material world mirror his connection to sanity. When he grows more insane, he stops his hobbies of painting, reading, and writing music. In the story, a link to the material world is a good thing, and it is not something one would want to transcend.

The Romantics celebrated beauty, often in nature, and sometimes idealized life. Poe’s stories often turn beautiful scenes into something grotesque. Autumn twilight is ominous instead of colorful and bountiful. An old house and the trappings of a rich family are in disrepair, left tattered and crumbling. Even the old romance story that the narrator reads to Roderick in order to calm him down portents Madeline’s dreadful reemergence from the vault. Decay and darkness complicate or destroy any conventional beauty, such as Roderick’s paintings or the grounds of the estate. Readers searching for beauty can only find a macabre beauty in the gothic descriptions and vividly intricate scenes Poe describes.

Poe’s story also reflects the fears of the time. Fear of premature burial was common in the 19th century for legitimate reasons: people were sometimes declared dead while still alive and then buried. The story of Madeline Usher dramatizes this fear. Despite the doctors around her all throughout her illness, she is prematurely buried. Roderick buries Madeline within the house and can hear her attempts to get out but does nothing, because he doesn’t understand that she is alive and trying to escape the vault. When she does manage to escape the vault, she only lives long enough to collapse, dead, on Roderick and thereby kill him as well.

Style and Technique

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In an 1842 review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales (1837), Poe discusses the importance of “effect” in stories, and he suggests that a “wise” writer will not fashion “his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique and single effect to be wrought out, he then . . . combines such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect.” He also asserts that the first sentence of a given story must contribute to the “outbringing of this effect.” Essentially, then, according to Poe a good story need not be believable to be successful, so long as the integrity of its effect is not disturbed. Applying Poe’s credo to “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the reader must admit that, yes, this story is a success for its effect.

The first sentence sets the mood, begins to create the overall effect, as the narrator describes the day as “dull, dark, and soundless,” the clouds hanging “oppressively low.” When he arrives at the house, he is struck by its “melancholy” appearance, and his spirit is overwhelmed by a sense of “insufferable gloom.” Not only is Poe working to create the story’s mood in the first paragraph (as he does throughout the story), but he is also intent on personifying the house when he has his narrator describe its windows as “eye-like” and the fungi implicitly as hair-like, “hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves.” Symbolically, the web of fungi, the house itself, and the “black and lurid tarn,” which lies near the house, are all extensions of the Usher family’s heritage and psychology; the atmosphere around this family reeks “a pestilent and mystic vapour, dull, sluggish . . . and leaden-hued.”

However, while Poe’s story is a success for its overall effect, the problem that exists in his credo extends into the story—that is, reason and probability are treated as unimportant. How, a reader must ask, does Madeline escape her coffin, the lid of which was screwed on, survive in the airless vault for seven or eight days without nourishment, and then escape the vault by forcing open the immensely heavy iron door? What causes the House of Usher to break in half and crumble into the tarn? No doubt Poe would have dispensed with such questions by pointing to the source of his story’s lasting success, its gothic and gloomy effect.

Places Discussed

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House of Usher

House of Usher. Home of the madman Roderick Usher and his twin sister Madeline. Located in an unspecified place, the house and its bleak surroundings are primarily described in terms of the impressions they create in the narrator’s mind. He is unnerved by the building itself, with its “vacant eye-like windows,” but he takes worse fright from its image reflected in the “black and lurid tarn” which lurks around and beneath it. The house is connected to the surrounding land by a narrow causeway, but the link is tenuous and precarious. The atmosphere above and around the house has been poisoned by the exudations of the tarn, becoming eerie and pestilential.

The house is ancient, its whole exterior being infested by fungal growths. Although it retains its form when the narrator first sees it, he is aware that every individual stone comprising its walls is on the point of crumbling. He also observes an almost imperceptible crack extending in a zigzag fashion from the roof to the foundations.

The storm which precipitates the final destruction of the edifice is manifestly unnatural, originating within rather than without. The vaporous clouds which gather about the turrets of the house are lit from below by luminous exhalations of the tarn. These clouds part just once, as the narrator flees from the house, to display a blood-red moon. It is by the ominous light of that celestial lantern that he sees the narrow crack widen, tearing the house apart from top to bottom so that its debris might collapse entirely into the tarn.


Hallway. Entered through a Gothic archway, the hallway has black floors. Its walls are covered with somber tapestries and its corridors decked with creaky relics of ancient arms and armor.

Roderick’s studio

Roderick’s studio. Large but the narrow windows, set high above the floor, let in so little light that it is exceedingly gloomy; it is abundantly, if rather shabbily, furnished and chaotically cluttered with books, musical instruments and Roderick’s phantasmagorical paintings.


Vaults. Numerous chambers contained within the walls of the building, in which Roderick’s ancestors are entombed. It is in one of the deepest of these—a cramped, damp and lightless covert used in olden times as a dungeon—that Roderick and the narrator place the body of the seemingly dead Madeline Usher. Following her interment the house becomes noisier than before, even from the viewpoint of the narrator. The hypersensitive Roderick hears the miscellaneous knocks, creaks, and rumbles even more keenly, and the transformations imposed upon them by his vivid imagination are fed back into the fabric of the house.

The frequent use of the castles and mansions that are the centerpieces of most gothic novels to model the troubled minds of their owners was not always as deliberate, but Edgar Allan Poe understood exactly what was going on when such edifices were afflicted by supernatural visitations and battered by storms. No one else had drawn such parallels so minutely, nor mapped the course of a symbolic tempest so accurately.

Historical Context

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"The Fall of the House of Usher" was first published in 1839 in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. At a time when most popular literature was highly moralistic, Poe's stories were concerned only with creating emotional effects. Poe charged that most of his contemporaries were "didactic," that is, they were preoccupied with making religious or political statements in their writings to the detriment of the fiction itself. His own tales of terror, in which he often depicted the psychological disintegration of unstable or emotionally overwrought characters, were in sharp contrast to the works of more highly praised writers of the time. Because of Poe's disdain for didactic writing, he was little regarded by the literary establishment in his day.

But despite being dismissed by literary critics, Poe's tales were instrumental in establishing the short story as a viable literary form. Before his time, such short works were not regarded as serious literature. Poe's examples of what the short story could accomplish, and his own nonfiction writings about the form, were instrumental in establishing the short story as a legitimate form of serious literature. Poe had a strong influence in popular fiction as well. His tales of terror are considered among the finest ever produced in the horror genre. He also pioneered, some critics say invented, the genre of detective fiction with his story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."

During the time Poe was writing, a distinct and mature body of American literature was beginning to develop with the contributions of such authors as Poe Nathaniel Hawthorne John Greenleaf Whittier Harriet Beecher Stowe Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and James Fenimore Cooper. Before this time, American readers considered British literature the only serious literature available. American writers wrote imitations derived from British models. But with the advent of a new group of American writers who were writing about specifically American subjects, settings, and characters, a distinctly American literature began to emerge. Poe was one of the American writers of the time who helped to formulate this national literature.


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With the exception of "The Gold Bug" and "Murders in the Rue Morgue," Poe's settings are usually remote in time and space, enhancing the story's mystery and other-worldliness. "The Fall of the House of Usher" has no definite setting except for the "singularly dreary tract of country" through which the narrator must travel to reach the House of Usher. Suits of armor and subterranean dungeons tend to suggest a European rather than an American locale, but these details were established trappings of the gothic genre. Typical gothic elements in the story include the Usher house, described as "this mansion of gloom" with its dark hallways and draperies, ebony black floors, "feeble gleams of encrimsoned light," and its eerie burial vault. Complementing these elements are Madeline Usher's mysterious malady, death and burial, and her return from the grave, the latter heightened by the thunder and lightning of a violent storm, a gothic technique often adopted by modern films and stories dealing with the supernatural.

Literary Style

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"The Fall of the House of Usher" centers on Roderick Usher and his twin sister Madeline, the last surviving members of the Usher family.

Setting The setting of "The Fall of the House of Usher'' plays an integral part in the story because it establishes an atmosphere of dreariness, melancholy, and decay. The story takes place in the Usher family mansion, which is isolated and located in a "singularly dreary tract of country." The house immediately stirs up in the narrator "a sense of insufferable gloom," and it is described as having "bleak walls," "vacant eye-like windows," and ''minute fungi overspread [on] the whole exterior." The interior of the house is equally dreary, with "vaulted and fretted" ceilings, "dark draperies hung upon the walls," and furniture that is "comfortless, antique, and tattered." Roderick is also disturbed by the setting, believing that the house is one of the causes of his nervous agitation. The narrator notes that Roderick "was enchained by certain superstitious impressions m regard to the dwelling which he tenanted, and whence, for many years, he had never ventured forth."

Point of View "The Fall of the House of Usher'' is told from the point of view of the unnamed narrator, who, being skeptical and rational, doesn't want to believe that there are supernatural causes to what is happening around him. Although he tries to tell the reader that Roderick's anxiety and nervousness are simply symptoms of the latter's mental anguish, the narrator, and therefore the reader, becomes increasingly disturbed as the story progresses. By telling the story from the point of view of a skeptic rather than a believer, Poe increases the suspense as well as the emotional impact of the story's ending.

Symbolism Poe uses symbolism—a literary technique where an object, person, or concept represents something else—throughout "The Fall of the House of Usher." The Usher mansion is the most important symbol in the story; isolated, decayed and full of the atmosphere of death, the house represents the dying Usher family itself. The narrator emphasizes this when he notes that "about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity—an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the grey wall, and the silent tarn." The fissure in the house is also an important symbol. Although it is, at first, barely visible to the narrator, it suggests a fundamental split or fault in the twin personalities of the last surviving Ushers and foretells the final ruin of the house and family. Other notable symbols of death and madness are Roderick's lyric, "The Haunted Palace"; his abstract painting, which is described as a "phantasmagoric" conception by the narrator; and the "fantastic character" of his guitar playing.

Imagery Poe uses imagery to create a foreboding atmosphere and to advance his themes in the story. An image is a concrete representation of an object or sensory experience; images help evoke the feelings associated with the object or the experience itself. For example, when the narrator briefly sees Madeline, he states: "The lady Madeline passed slowly through the remote portion of the apartment, and, without having noticed my presence, disappeared. A sensation of stupor oppressed me, and my eyes followed her retreating steps." Such images contribute to the perception that Madeline is ghostlike and mysterious. When the narrator sees the physician on the stair at the beginning of the story, he notes: "His countenance, I thought, wore a mingled expression of low cunning and perplexity. He accosted me with trepidation and passed on." This image of the doctor is much more effective than a mere literal description; it underscores the fear and anxiety pervading the Usher home.

Gothicism "The Fall of the House of Usher'' is considered a preeminent example of Gothic short fiction with its focus on such topics as incest, terminal illness, mental breakdown, and death. Gothic fiction generally includes elements of horror, the supernatural, gloom, and violence and creates in the reader feelings of terror and dread. Gothic fiction also frequently takes place in medieval-like settings; the desolate, ancient, and decaying Usher mansion is ideally suited for this story. In addition to creating an atmosphere of dread, Poe, some critics have suggested, incorporated into his story aspects of the vampire tale. J. O. Bailey, for example, contended in American Literature that Madeline is a vampire and that Roderick is fighting her powers "with all he has."

Literary Qualities

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Poe's literary skill is readily apparent in "The Fall of the House of Usher," and one of his most vivid techniques is the story's tone. Poe chooses details that highlight the terror of near madness, premature burial, and death and destruction. Foremost is his description of the gloomy Usher house, and the fissure that seems to extend from the house's roof to the "sullen waters of the tarn." Equally important in setting the tone is the violent storm on a night that is "singular in its terror and beauty." The thunder crashes, the lightning bolts flash, and the wind howls as Madeline makes her way from the tomb to the door of Roderick's study. Roderick's and Madeline's deaths are further heightened as the narrator notes that the "blood-red moon . . . now shone vividly through the once barely discernible fissure."

Another literary device used masterfully by Poe is foreshadowing. Roderick's terrible fate is foretold in the description of the house that totters on the brink of collapse. The details of the bleak exterior prepare the reader for the description of the house's interior and of Roderick and Madeline Usher. Two other foreshadowing devices are Roderick's painting of a vault which eventually becomes Madeline's tomb and the narrator's reading of Sir Lancelot Canning's "Mad Twist," the plot of which coincides with Madeline's return from the tomb.

Poe also reinforces the story's plot and theme with symbolism. The most obvious symbol is the Usher house, which stands now in stark contrast to its once vibrant history, a history alluded to in "The Haunted Palace." The house's windows, fungi, and fissure suggest Roderick's rapidly decaying physical and mental states. By extension, Madeline's barren womb also symbolizes the Usher lineage, house, and Roderick. When she dies, he is the last of the Ushers; when he dies, it will indeed be the fall of the House of Usher.

Compare and Contrast

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1830s: Common belief dictates that odors from water—such as the tarn outside the Usher house— could cause mental illness of the type suffered by Roderick Usher. Few, if any, effective treatments were available for mental illness.

Today: Better understanding of the physiological causes of mental illness and a variety of medical therapies result in a vast improvement in the way the mentally ill are treated.

1830s: The deceased are commonly laid in-state at home for several days. Funeral homes are rare; families prepare and bury their loved ones themselves.

Today: Most people die in hospitals and wakes are most often held in churches or funeral homes.

1830s: Travel is difficult, slow, and sometimes dangerous. Railroads are in their infancy and most long distance travel is in horse-drawn wagons. It was not unusual for guests to stay several weeks or for an entire season when invited to a relative's or friend's house.

Today: Improved transportation—including railroads, airplanes, and automobiles—makes longdistance travel easier, while advanced communications technology like telephones and e-mail makes long visits with family and friends less popular than in previous eras.

Media Adaptations

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"The Fall of the House of Usher'' was adapted to film in 1952. Directed and produced by Ivan Barnett, this black and white, 70-minute film starred Kay Tendeter as Roderick Usher and Gwen Watford as Madeline Usher and is available from Vigilant distributors. It is generally considered to be a poor adaptation of Poe's story.

Considered one of the best film adaptations of "The Fall of the House of Usher," the 1960 version starred Vincent Price, Myrna Fahey, and Mark Damon and was directed by Mark Corman. It runs 65 minutes and is in color.

The story was also adapted to film in 1980. Starring Martin Landau as Roderick Usher and Dimitra Arliss as Madeline Usher, this 101-minute color film was produced by Charles E. Sellier, Jr. and directed by James L. Conway. It is available from Sunn Classic.

A dramatization of "The Fall of the House of Usher" was taped in 1965 as part of the "American Story Classics" series. Available from Film Video Library, this adaptation runs 29 minutes and is in black and white.

Another dramatization of the story was taped in 1976 by Encyclopaedia Britannica Educational Corporation. Also produced by Britannica in 1976, The Fall of the House of Usher: A Discussion features science fiction writer Ray Bradbury discussing the Gothic traditions of "The Fall of the House of Usher" as well as Poe's influence on contemporary science fiction.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Further Reading Abel, Darrel. "A Key to the House of Usher," in University of Toronto Quarterly, Vol XVH, No. 2, January, 1949, pp. 176-85.

Abel talks about the setting of "The Fall of the House of Usher,'' and how the themes of isolation and self-destructive concentration are symbolized by the character of Rodenck Usher.

Baym, Nina '"The Fall of the House of Usher,' Character Analysis," The Norton Anthology of American Literature, W.W.Norton, 1995, p. 664.

Baym offers a brief analysis of the three characters and their mental disorders.

Bieganowski, Ronald. "The Self-consuming Narrator in Poe's 'Ligeia' and 'Usher'," in American Literature Volume 60, No 2, May, 1988, pp. 175-87.

Bieganowski shows how the narrators in these two tales become enamored of their own rhetoric and therefore fail to tell the tale in the complete manner they intend. They fail because their desire to tell their story in the most ideal manner possible overwhelms the story itself.

Brennan, Matthew C. "Turnerian Topography: The Paintings of Roderick Usher," in Studies in Short Fiction, Volume 27, Fall, 1990, pp. 605-8.

Brennan argues that Poe's descriptions of Roderick's paintings show a strong similarity to the paintings of Englishman Joseph Turner. He believes that both Poe and Turner reject the realist's approach to their art in favor of a more vague, expressionist approach called the "sublime style."

Brooks, Cleanth, Jr. and Robert Penn Warren. "The Fall of the House of Usher," in their Understanding Fiction, New York, F.S. Crofts & Co., 1943, pp. 202- 5.

Reduces "The Fall of the House of Usher" to a "relatively meaningless" horror story which serves principally as a case study in morbid psychology and lacks any quality of pathos or tragedy.

Evans, Walter. '"The Fall of the House of Usher' and Poe's Theory of the Tale,'' in Studies in Short Fiction, Volume 14, No 2, Spring, 1977, pp. 137-44.

Evans contends that there are significant discrepancies between Poe's theory of the tale and his literary practice as exemplified by ''The Fall of the House of Usher."

May, Leila S. "Sympathies of Scarcely Intelligible Nature: The Brother-Sister Bond in Poe's 'Fall of the House of Usher'," in Studies in Short Fiction, Volume 30, Summer, 1993, pp 387-96.

May makes the relationship of the Ushers and their fall a symbolic representation of the fall of the family in the 19th century.

Poe, Edgar Allan "The Philosophy of Composition," in Selected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Edward H. Davidson, Houghton, 1956, pp. 452-61.

Poe outlines his philosophy of literary composition, discussing the proper length and content of literary works.

Rout, Kay Kinsella ''The Unreliable and Unbalanced Narrator," in Studies in Short Fiction, Volume 19, Winter, 1982, pp 27-33.

While this article is more about John Gardner's story, "The Ravages of Spring," Rout compares the narrator in it to the narrator of "Usher." She sees both as unreliable and emotionally unbalanced.

Voloshin, Beverly R.''Explanation in 'The Fall of the House of Usher'," in Studies in Short Fiction, Volume 23, Fall, 1986, pp. 419-28.

Voloshm argues that the story is a turning point in the development of the Gothic tale in the hands of Poe. She says it contains all the necessary ingredients: romance, mystery, darkness, supernatural, decay, a corpse, and even vampirism.

For Further Reference

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Allen, Hervey. Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: George H. Doran, 1926. This is the first definitive biography of Poe and should be read in conjunction with later biographies.

Bebee, Maurice. "The Fall of the House of Pyncheon." Nineteenth Century Fiction 11 (1956): 1-17. As an example of varied Poe criticism, Bebee's discussion compares the unity in Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" with Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables.

Benet, Laura. Young Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Dodd Mead, 1941. This is a readable, fictionalized biography written especially for young readers.

Bittner, William. Poe: A Biography. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1962. Most critics recommend this biography for its readability.

Buranelli, Vincent. Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Twayne, 1961. Excellent source for the general student and scholar.

Carlson, Eric W., ed. Casebook on The Fall of the House of Usher. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill Casebook Series, 1971. Carlson's book contains essays by various critics.

Gale, Robert L. Barron's Simplified Approach to Edgar Allan Poe. Woodbury, NY: Barrons, 1969. As the title implies, this is a simplified and general overview of Poe's life and writings and an excellent source for the general student.

Howarth, William L. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Poe's Tales. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1971. This collection contains individual essays about Poe's works.

Hyneman, Esther F. Edgar Allan Poe: An Annotated Bibliography of Books and Articles in English, 1827-1973. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1974. Hyneman claims that this bibliography contains "all major criticism written about Poe in English and a good deal of what is minor."

Kendall, Lyle H., Jr. "The Vampire Motif in The Fall of the House of Usher.'" College English 24 (March 1963): 450- 453. Kendall's thesis is that Madeline Usher is a vampire and Roderick is her final victim. This essay is reprinted in Woodson's book, listed below.

Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1941. Ester Hyneman writes that this volume "remains the definitive biography of Poe, although it should now be supplemented . . . by recent biographical studies."

Stein, William Bysshe. "Twin Motif in The Fall of the House of Usher.' " Modern Language Notes (February 1960): 109-111. Stein discusses Madeline as the alter ego which revolts and destroys Roderick. Stein's essay is reprinted in Eric W. Carlson's Casebook listed above.

Stone, Edward. "Usher, Poquelin, and Miss Emily: Progress of the Southern Gothic." Georgia Review 14 (Winter 1960): 433-443. In their own rights, Poe ("The Fall of the House of Usher"), George Washington Cable ("Jean-ah Poquelin"), and William Faulkner ("A Rose for Emily") contributed to the development of Southern Gothic.

Stovall, Floyd, ed. Edgar Poe: Essays New and Old on the Man and His Work. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1969. Stovall's title explains what this work contains.

Woodson, Thomas, ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of "The Fall of the House of Usher". Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969. This volume contains an excellent collection of critical viewpoints, individual critical essays, a chronology, and a selected bibliography.


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Beebe, Maurice. “The Universe of Roderick Usher.” In Poe: A Collection of Critical Essays. Edited by Robert Regan. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1967. Discusses the cosmological theory that underlies “Fall of the House of Usher.” Claims that an understanding of Poe’s Eureka helps the reader understand the story as symbolic drama.

Hoffman, Daniel. Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1972. A personal study of the mind of Poe, containing an extensive discussion of doubling and desire in “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Argues that the story is a catalog of all Poe’s obsessional themes.

May, Charles E. Edgar Allan Poe: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1991. A study of Poe’s development of the short story as a genre; discusses “The Fall of the House of Usher” as an esthetic, self-reflexive fable of the basic dilemma of the artist. Also includes an essay with a reader-response approach to the story by Ronald Bieganowski.

Robinson, E. Arthur. “Order and Sentience in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher.’ ” PMLA 76 (1961): 68-81. One of the most extensive studies of the story; focuses on its underlying pattern of thought and thematic structure.

Thompson, G. R., and Virgil L. Lokke, eds. Ruined Eden of the Present. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1981. Contains a debate between G. R. Thompson and Patrick F. Quinn about the psychic state of the narrator in the story.




Critical Essays