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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What are some examples of figures of speech in "The Fall of the House of Usher"?

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Poe uses such figures of speech as similes, images, personification, pathetic fallacy, alliteration, consonance, and punning in "The Fall of the House of Usher." These help create a mood of relentless dreariness, oppression, and anxiety.

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Poe has his narrator employ a simile as he heads toward the House of Usher. The narrator compares the depression he feels to the "after-dream of the reveller upon opium"—in other words, the crash that follows a drug trip. This conveys a vivid sense—even to one who doesn't use drugs—of how desolate the narrator feels.

The imagery throughout the story is vivid and relentlessly reinforces the mood of dreariness, gloom, and anxious foreboding that permeates the story. For example, the narrator uses visual imagery as he states he looked on:

the simple landscape features of the domain—upon the bleak walls—upon the vacant eye-like windows—upon a few rank sedges—and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees.

The "eye-like windows" are an example of personification or treating the house as if it is alive like a person.

The narrator also uses the pathetic fallacy, which is when the weather reflects a character's state of mind or feeling. In this case, the "clouds [which] hung oppressively low in the heavens" exactly mirror the narrator's oppressed mindset as he comes close to the house across a barren landscape.

Alliteration and consonance are frequently used literary devices that create a sense of rhythm through the repetition of words beginning with the same consonants or using the same consonants within words. An example would be the following, with repeated "l" sounds:

a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre

Poe also puns on "house of Usher," using it to mean both the house itself as a physical structure and the family lineage of the Ushers.

Literacy devices such as personification hover on the edge of becoming literalized in the story: the house does seem to have a supernatural "life" that is tied to the lives of the Ushers—this also adds resonance to the pun on the "House of Usher."

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Poe is pretty much the master of creating alliteration that chills to the bone. Here are some examples of his skill:

During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year (emphasis added)

This is the opening sentence, so the tone is set immediately through this hard and repetitive d sound.

The storm was still abroad in all its wrath as I found myself crossing the old causeway. Suddenly there shot along the path a wild light, and I turned to see whence a gleam so unusual could we have issued, for the vast house and its shadows were alone behind me. The radiance was that of the full, setting, and blood-red moon which now shone vividly through that once barely-discernible fissure of which I have before spoken as extending from the roof of the building, in a zig-zag direction, to the base. (emphasis added)

The repetitive s sound in this section of the storm is reminiscent of the wind whipping around the narrator and the house and of the fizzure which rips open at this point.

There are also examples of similes:

There was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters . . .

No sooner had these syllables passed my lips, than—as if a shield of brass had indeed, at the moment, fallen heavily upon a floor of silver, became aware of a distinct, hollow, metallic, and clangorous, yet apparently muffled reverberation.

Poe employs personification as a means of making the house seem like a character itself:

I endeavoured to believe that much, if not all of what I felt, was due to the bewildering influence of the gloomy furniture of the room—of the dark and tattered draperies, which, tortured into motion by the breath of a rising tempest, swayed fitfully to and fro upon the walls, and rustled uneasily about the decorations of the bed. . . .

I looked upon the scene before me—upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain—upon the bleak walls—upon the vacant eye-like windows . . .

In this there was much that reminded me of the specious totality of old wood-work which has rotted for long years in some neglected vault, with no disturbance from the breath of the external air. . . .

As if in the superhuman energy of his utterance there had been found the potency of a spell—the huge antique panels to which the speaker pointed, threw slowly back, upon the instant, ponderous and ebony jaws.

The descriptive imagery of the house, of Madeline, and of Roderick further add to the eerie setting and the tone which propel the plot. From beginning to end, Poe uses a variety of literary techniques to captivate the reader in this tale of suspense.

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Some figures of speech include:

Allegories- The moss growing outside of a decaying estate which was formerly grandiose and sumptuous; the dead sister; the inevitability of Usher's appareance, and the fall from glory of the House of Usher are all allegories to fate and its control over our lives: How the influences that we cannot control at times end up taking up our inner self, and then spits us out.

Anaphora- The repetition of words or phrases within one same paragraph in order to balance out the narration and enhance the storytelling process:

I looked upon the scene before me–upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain–upon the bleak walls–upon the vacant eye-like windows–upon a few rank sedges–and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees

Many minutes, many hours, many days, have I heard it

Alliteration: Poe describes many things using the same first letter such as the words:

feeble and futile

cadaverous corpses

icing, a sinkin, a sickening of the heart

Rythm: As with everything Poe writes, he always wants to give balance through rhyme:

Oppresicely, melancholy, destructively, agonizingly, etc.

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What are some figures of speech and the point of view used in "The Fall of the House of Usher?  

Figures of speech are defined as expressions that are used figuratively, that is, the words mean something other than what they mean when used literally. For example, a figure of speech is, "It's raining cats and dogs." Taken literally, this sentence would mean that when you look out your window, you will see cats and dogs falling from the sky onto your lawn and that your umbrella won't be quite adequate for the storm.... Taken figuratively, non-literally, this sentence means that the storm is a fierce one and the rain is coming down in great quantities. In this case, when you look out your window, you will a lot of rain falling from dark clouds and your umbrella may still be inadequate for the storm....

Figures of speech are formally called "tropes." As stated by Kenneth Burke in Grammar of Motives (Dr. Robert J. Belton, Creative & Critical Studies, University of British Columbia), there are four classic tropes. These are irony, metaphor, metonymy and synecdoche. Many other tropes (figures of speech) have been added to the classic four. Some are simile, personification, apostrophe, hyperbole, meiosis, puns, onomatopoeia, etc.

In "The Fall of the House of Usher," written in a first person narrator point of view, three examples of tropes--or figures of speech--that Poe uses are metaphor, as in "shades of the evening;" personification, as in "melancholy House of Usher" and "his speaking guitar;" meiosis, also called understatement, as in "I had so worked upon my imagination as really to believe that about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves...."

Metaphor is a comparison between two unlike things, for example as in "The cotton candy was heaven." Personification is giving human qualities to inanimate objects, for example as in, "The dark forest laughed at us." Meiosis is understatement, or making something sound less important or significant than it really is, for example as in "Seeing the approaching killer tornado made me uncomfortable."

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