““The Fall of the House ofThe Fall of the House of
Edgar Allan PoeEdgar Allan Poe
Poe’s DictionPoe’s Diction
• You may not understand every single word,
so use context clues. We know Poe is
continually addressing gothic and romantic
tendencies. “Unknown words” are probably
not going to reference rainbows and ponies.
• Realize that all of the words are going to
have dark, dreary, negative
connotations. You do not necessarily have
to know the meaning of every word to
understand the story.
• Poe uses every word to instill horror,
accompanied by oppressing morbidity and
anxious anticipation. Every word has a
negative connotation somehow. Look
at the opening words:
– During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless
day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds
hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been
passing alone, on horseback, through a
singularly dreary tract of country; and at
length found myself, as the shades of the
evening drew on, within view of the melancholy
House of Usher.
• Besides painting a gloomy picture, the words
in the paragraph also beat out a rhythm–at
first through the alliteration of during, dull,
dark, and day, and then through the
rhyming suffixes of oppressively,
singularly, and melancholy.
The story begins at
dusk on an autumn
day in an earlier time,
probably the 19th
Century. The place is a forbidding mansion
in a forlorn countryside. The mansion,
covered by a fungus, is encircled by a small
lake, called a tarn, that resembles a moat. A
bridge across the tarn provides access to the
• In “The Fall of the House of Usher” how do
atmosphere and environment influence the
• In “The Fall of the House of Usher” how do
atmosphere and environment influence
Roderick Usher’s behavior?
• How would you behave in the House of Usher?
Would you react similarly to either the
narrator or Usher?
Main CharactersMain Characters
• Narrator, a friend of the master of the
House of Usher. When he visits his
friend, he witnesses terrifying
Roderick Usher, the master of the
house. He suffers from a depressing
condition characterized by strange
Madeline Usher, twin sister of
Roderick. She also suffers from a
strange illness. After apparently dying,
she rises from her coffin.
Let’s Make Sure WeLet’s Make Sure We
Understand What is GoingUnderstand What is Going
• Think about why the boyhood friend is the narrator.
This is Roderick Usher’s story, but it’s not told
from his point of view. Consider why Poe delivers
information to the reader from the perceptions of an
• Analyze the information given about Roderick and
Madeline Usher’s illnesses. Pay close attention to
how these diseases affect them mentally and
emotionally, as well as physically.
• Decide whether Roderick intentionally buries
Madeline alive or not and why he would do
so. Ask if Poe is suggesting that Roderick
Usher is trying to destroy a part of himself
by destroying his sister.
• Read the ballad “The Haunted Palace”
carefully and see how it relates to the story
as a whole. Think about why Roderick Usher
is the one to perform it.
• Consider why the house is physically
destroyed. Poe is using this as a symbol to
make a statement about the Usher family
• Think about the role the story’s title has on
both a literal and symbolic level.
Characterization—The UsherCharacterization—The Usher
• What is an “usher”?
• What is the Usher family associated with?
• What does it mean that “…the entire family
lay in the direct line of descent…”?
• What is wrong with Usher? His twin,
• What does Usher look like?
• The central theme of "The Fall of the House of
Usher" is terror that arises from the
complexity and multiplicity of forces that
shape human destiny. Dreadful, horrifying
events result not from a single,
uncomplicated circumstance but from a
collision and intermingling of manifold,
Other ThemesOther Themes
• Isolation—Roderick and Madeline Usher seal
themselves inside their mansion, cutting
themselves off from friends, ideas, progress. They
have become musty and mildewed, sick unto their
souls for lack of contact with the outside world.
• Madness—Roger and Madeline suffer from
mental illness characterized by anxiety,
depression, and other symptoms.
• Mystery—From the very beginning, the narrator
realizes that he is entering a world of mystery
when he crosses the tarn bridge.
• The Fungus-Ridden
• The Collapsing
• The “Vacant eye-like”
Windows of the
• The Tarn, a Small
Lake Encircling the
Reflecting Its Image
• The Bridge Over the
• The name Usher
• The Storm
• The poem, "The
Poe’s IntentPoe’s Intent
– Melancholy—a gloomy state of mind, esp. when
habitual or prolonged; depression
• Did Poe’s poem have a melancholy effect on you?
– Poe once wrote that all worldly things contain "the
germ of their inevitable annihilation."
• Long before Freud suggested that humans might
be driven by more than self-preservative instincts,
Poe discovered the implacable, unreasonable drive
towards self-destruction. He discovered it in
himself, and he dramatized it in each of his
Romantic ElementsRomantic Elements
– Emotion over reason
– Belief in the supernatural
– Supremacy of nature over man
– Nationalism: Customs and Folklore
– High regard for imagination
• What makes this story gothic? What
gothic characteristics does the story