During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens…” is the opening sentence of the eerie tale, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” written by Edgar Allan Poe (1373).
This sentence simplifies the mood of this gothic tale of death and the supernatural. The story has a unique setting that acts out the story by itself. Much emphasis is placed on the looks and feelings that the house gives to the unnamed narrator. Through the use of imagery, this great poet sets the mood and foreshadows what is expected to come. The ever presence of the mansion of gloom” causes the reader to imply that only evil and death shall arise from the house (Poe 1374).
Imagery, when used correctly, can be a powerful tool that gives a story a unique feeling. It sets the stage and gives readers an idea of the setting and how it affects the outcome of the story. In the introduction of this tale, the narrator approaches the house of a long-time friend, Roderick Usher, and feels a sense of insufferable gloom. The windows appear vacant and eye-like, and the narrator observes the rank edges and the black and lurid tarn, in which he sees the reflection of the house. Later, he says, When I again uplifted my eyes to the house itself, from its image in the pool, there grew a strange fancy.”
Although the narrator tried to view everything he sees in a rational manner, upon seeing the house and its surroundings, he has a sense of superstition. He goes on to say that, about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity” (Poe 1377).
This statement indicates that perhaps the house does indeed have supernatural characteristics. The narrator also notices the fungi on the walls and the poor structure of the house and suggests that something possibly supernatural is holding the house intact, otherwise it would have fallen to the ground long ago. The setting is shown to be the house itself and all of these quotations cement the fact that Poe used various gloomy descriptions to get across the total evil that encompasses the house. Death is apparent and is in the air” because the house is ghostly and everything involving the Mathusalehistic (Bible) house. Setting cannot just be quarantined by itself when analyzing a story because many details make up the overall setting. The setting is not limited to concrete objects and places but a feeling can also be the inner setting of the story.
In The Fall of the House of Usher,” several great aspects of the setting are explored, including death, the supernatural, and evil. The story depicts an increase of negativity in the atmosphere, leading to a sense of great evil and ultimately resulting in the death of Roderick Usher. This atmosphere creates a living nightmare for Roderick, one that he cannot escape alive. Interestingly, death is not considered a bad occurrence in this story, especially for Usher, who sees it as his only means of escape and freedom. In the end, Lady Madeline seeks revenge on Roderick, but she does not realize that he welcomes death.
Usher preferred death to the hellish prison his life had become. In the fall of Usher, he finally found peace and freedom. Poe uses death and evil as the main non-concrete setting of the story. The story revolves around this feeling of death and it becomes a major setting.
The setting of any story greatly influences what the reader is supposed to perceive from what will happen and what is actually happening. In the story The Fall of the House of Usher,” Poe uses imagery to give the reader a sense of the total evil of the house. The mood for the story can be seen rather early on and is intended to get the reader in the right frame of mind for what is about to happen. Poe also uses a thought or feeling as a setting, incorporating evil and death into the story, which becomes its main theme: “I shall perish, I must perish in this deplorable folly.”
I feel that I must abandon life and reason together in my struggles with some fatal demon of fears” (Poe 1378-1379).