As the visitor approaches the House of Usher, he is forewarned by the appearance of the old mansion. The fall weather is dull and dreary, the countryside is shady and gloomy, and the old house seems to fit perfectly into the desolate surroundings. The windows look like vacant eyes staring out over the bleak landscape. The visitor comes to the House of Usher in response to a written plea from his boyhood friend, Roderick Usher. The letter tells of an illness of body and mind suffered by the last heir in the ancient line of Usher, and although the letter strangely fills him with dread, the visitor feels that he must go to his former friend. The Usher family, unlike most, left only a direct line of descent, and perhaps it is for this reason that the family itself and the house became one—the House of Usher. As the visitor gets closer, the house appears even more formidable. The stone is discolored and covered with fungi. The building gives the impression of decay, yet the masonry did not fall. A barely discernible crack extends in a zigzag line from the roof to the foundation, but otherwise there are no visible breaks in the structure.
The visitor enters the house, gives his things to a servant, and proceeds through several dark passages to the study of the master. There he is stunned at the appearance of his old friend. In Usher’s cadaverous face, eyes are liquid and lips are pallid. His weblike hair is untrimmed and floats over his brow. All in all, he is a depressing figure. In manner, he is even more morbid. He is afflicted with great sensitivity and strange fear. There are only a few sounds, a few odors, a few foods, and a few textures in clothing that do not fill him with terror. In fact, he is haunted incessantly by unnamed fears.
Even more strangely, he is imbued with the thought that the house itself exerts great influence over his morale and that it influences his spirit. Usher’s moodiness is heightened by the approaching death of his sister, Lady Madeline. His only living relative, she is wasting away from a strange malady that baffles the doctors. Often the disease reveals its cataleptic (muscular rigidity marked by a lack of response to external stimuli) nature. The visitor sees her only once, on the night of his arrival. She passed through the room without speaking, and her appearance filled him with awe and foreboding.
For several days, the visitor attempts to cheer the sick master of Usher and restore him to health, but it seems, rather, that the hypochondria suffered by Usher affects his friend. More and more, the morbid surroundings and the ramblings of Usher’s sick mind prey upon his visitor. More and more,...
(The entire section is 1090 words.)