Imagery in The Fall of the House of Usher The description of the landscape in any story is important as it creates a vivid imagery of the scene and helps to develop the mood. Edgar Allan Poe is a master at using imagery to improve the effects of his stories. He tends to use the landscapes to symbolize some important aspect of the story. Also, he makes use of the landscape to produce a supernatural effect and to induce horror. In particular, Poe makes great use of these tools in The Fall of the House of Usher.
This story depends on the portrayal of the house itself to create a certain atmosphere and to relate to the Usher family. In The Fall of the House of Usher, Edgar Allan Poe uses the landscape to develop an atmosphere of horror and to create corollary to the Usher family. Poe uses the life-like characteristics of the house as a device for giving the house a supernatural presence. The house is described as having somewhat supernatural characteristics. The windows appear to be vacant and eye-like (1462).Order now
The strange nature of the house is further explained as around the mansion, …there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity. (1462). This demonstrates that the house and its surroundings have an unusual and bizarre existence. Upon entering the house, the narrator views some objects, such as the tapestries on the walls and the trophies, fill him with a sense of superstition.
He describes the trophies as phantasmagoric (1462). He further explains that the house and the contents were the cause of his feelings. He describes his superstition one night, I endeavored to believe that much, if not all of what I felt, was due to the phantasmagoric influence of the gloomy furniture of the room… (1468). Hence, Poe makes use of the house to create a supernatural effect. Likewise, Poe describes the house to create a terrifying effect.
The Fall of the House of Usher is a horror story. In order to develop a mood to get the reader frightened, Poe must portray the setting of the story. The house is described initially by the narrator, who sees the image of the house as a skull or death’s head looming out of the dead. He is not sure what to think and comments of the properties of the old house: What was it, I paused to think, what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the house of Usher? (1461 – 1462). The house is further described to take on expressions and feelings.
Poe writes that the house took on a sorrowful impression and referred to it as the melancholy House of Usher (1462). Poe further describes the surroundings: …an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn — a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued. (1463). These portrayals of the house and its surroundings are used to build an effect for the story.
This fantastic imagery sets the mood of the twisted events and serves as a backbone to the story and the characters. Besides mood setting, Poe uses the house to strongly relate to the nature of the characters. The narrator states that Roderick’s fears may be linked directly to the house. He is enchained by certain superstitious impressions in regard to the dwelling which he tenanted, and from which, for many years, he had never ventured forth. (1465).
He believes that Roderick’s illness may be caused by the conditions of the house itself. Roderick is found as …an anomalous species of terror…a bounden slave, or he is described as a prisoner in his own home. As a result, Roderick does not leave because the influence of the house was too strong. There was …an influence which some peculiarities in the mere form and substance of his family mansion had, …he said, obtained over his spirit — an effect which the physique of the gray wall and turrets…brought about upon the morale of his existence. (1465). Because of this fear, Roderick is retrained from leaving and does not make the attempt to defeat this enduring power that holds him captive.
The house causes the fears that control Roderick Usher’s mind. Madeline Usher is effected also since she has a severe mental disorder and is in a catatonic state. Clearly the house plays a role to greatly influence the characters. Moreover, the house parallels the Usher family. The two are analogous to one another with the patterns of each being the same. The landscape and the minds of Roderick and Madeline reflect each other.
The house is in deterioration as is the mental states of Roderick and Madeline. The melancholy House of Usher has a sorrowful impression while the Usher family was down to the last of the ancient race of their family (1461 – 1462). Both are crumbling from within, awaiting collapse. Furthermore, the disappearance of one implies the disappearance of the other. Everything eventually declines together, creating a unity of effect.
Roderick collapsed to the floor, a victim to the terrors he had anticipated (1474). As the narrator ran from the house, he saw the mighty walls rushing asunder and the fragments of the ‘HOUSE OF USHER’ (1474). Poe uses the house of Usher as a parallel to the family in that they slowly deteriorate and eventually fall together. In addition, Poe applies the poem The Haunted Palace to make a connection between the house and its inhabitants.
The poem can be described as a resemblance to the story itself. In the poem, Poe states that the house was once a fair and stately palace. This depicts the history of the house of Usher. Over time, the house deteriorated along with the emotions of the people occupying it: But evil things, in robes of sorrow, Assailed the monarch’s high estate; (Ah, let us mourn, for never morrow Shall dawn upon him, desolate!) And, round bout his home, the glory That blushed and bloomed Is but a dim-remembered story Of the old time entombed.
Apparently, the house has been overcome by evil and the happiness the once lived is now just a memory. The current state of the house is a dim and depressing one, as described in the poem: A hideous throng rush out forever, / And laugh — but smile no more. Thus, Poe makes use of this story within a story to create a further description how the house and family relate to each other (1467 – 1468). The technique Poe uses to develop a landscape is similar to the methods of Washington Irving.
In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, Irving uses the landscape to help enhance the story. Irving describes the atmosphere in Rip Van Winkle to help portray the lives of Americans compared to the British. The entire environment, such as the woods and mountains, was used. Irving also uses the same means in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
This story is similar to The Fall of the House of Usher since it depicts the atmosphere to create an eerie feeling. The landscape is set to heighten the idea of a headless horseman roaming the woods. Both Poe and Irving have used the landscapes to create a vivid and extraordinary effect. In conclusion, Poe’s use of the landscape in The Fall of the House of Usher helps create a supernatural and frightening atmosphere as well as embellish the plot of the story and characters.
The portrayal of the house as one with life-like characteristics produces the supernatural atmosphere. The house is almost unreal which makes the setting more terrifying. The idea of a dreadful house and the reaction of the narrator gives a ghostly impression to the reader. Poe also uses the house to magnify the plot and the characters. The house was in deterioration as was the Usher family.
The poem, The Haunted Place, summarizes the life of the house. The house also affects the Usher family. The mental states of Roderick and Madeline were directly related to the house itself. They felt overpowed by the strength of the house. The lives of the two English Essays