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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Which interior details in "The Fall of the House of Usher" suggest a realm different from the ordinary?

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In "The Fall of the House of Usher," there are numerous descriptive details of the interior of the house that suggests that the narrator has entered a realm very different from the ordinary world, such as Gothic archway of the hall, which suggests a place that's dark and scary. Then there are the "sombre tapestries" on the wall and the "phantasmagoric" armorial trophies that rattle as the narrator strides past.

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Before the narrator of "The Fall of the House of Usher" has even set foot inside the place, it's clear that the Ushers' spooky old house is no ordinary home. Its "excessive antiquity" with its great "discoloration of ages" combine with other features to create an unusual atmosphere

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atmosphere that the narrator cannot help but find oppressive.

And the singularity of this remarkable building doesn't stop with the exterior. Once inside, the narrator is subjected to yet more weird and not so wonderful sights that serve to give us an insight into the living environment of the Usher family.

As the narrator reflects, what he sees inside the house heightens the "vague sentiments" of which he's already spoken and which were induced by his apprehension of the building's exterior. All the objects he sees around him seem to transport him to a whole different dimension of existence that is at once otherworldly and deeply unnerving.

There are the carvings on the ceiling, the "sombre" tapestries hanging on the wall, the ebon blackness of the floor, and the "phantasmagoric" armorial trophies that rattle as the narrator walks past them. When all of these impressions are taken together, they contribute towards a dark, brooding atmosphere that provides a suitable backdrop to the action that follows.

What's particularly striking about these features of the house's interior is that they are all perfectly familiar to the narrator; he's been accustomed to them since he was a child. And yet they still unnerve him all the same. If the narrator didn't already know that the house of Usher occupies a very different world to the one he normally inhabits, he certainly does now.

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Which descriptive details of the interior of the house suggest that the narrator has entered a realm that is very different from the ordinary world?

In his short story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Edgar Allan Poe employs his skills in description to give readers a definition impression of the Usher home and how it matches the psyches of its occupants, the Usher siblings.

After the narrator describes the gloomy and dilapidated exterior of the house, he enters to find that the interior contains a strange realm that is no longer connected to ordinary life.

First, the narrator enters through “the Gothic archway of the hall,” thus crossing the threshold into another world. The Gothic style of architecture was developed in the medieval era, and this detail indicates the narrator has symbolically gone back in time, away from contemporary life. The architectural detail also reflects Roderick Usher’s obsession with the past, which is referenced again with his performance of the song “The Haunted Palace.”

The valet who greets the narrator is “of stealthy step” and silently leads the narrator “through many dark and intricate passages” to Usher’s room. The valet’s lack of verbal communication and his knowledge of the way through the darkness and complexity of the home’s interior suggest a guide through a labyrinth, evoking a reference from Greek mythology of the hero Theseus entering the labyrinth to confront the Minotaur, a creature that is the result of a family secret.

As the narrator follows the valet, he continues to receive disturbing glimpses of the house that match the impressions of its exterior. He refers to

the somber tapestries of the walls, the ebon blackness of the floors, and the phantasmagoric armorial trophies which rattled as I strode…

Even though the narrator asserts that he is “accustomed” to such sights, he still makes a point of mentioning them and wondering about their effect. The adjective “phantasmagoric,” suggesting the unreal or illusory, comes up again when the narrator uses the word to describe one of Roderick’s paintings.

On a staircase, the narrator encounters the family physician, whose face wears “a mingled expression of low cunning and perplexity” and who accosts the narrator “with trepidation.” The doctor in this capacity functions as a type of threshold guardian, a figure in mythology who challenges the courage of the hero.

The narrator moves on and follows the valet into Roderick Usher’s room. He finds his friend reclining on a couch in a room made strange by “feeble gleams of encrimsoned light” and with furniture that is “comfortless, antique, and tattered.” Above all other impressions, the narrator relates,

I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow. An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded all.

From that point on, the events in the house of Usher match its dark, gloomy, and otherworldly presence.

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