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The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar…

The Fall of the House of Usher

by Edgar Allan Poe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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I'd never read Poe before when I bought this book. I usually hate florid writing (basically, anything before the late 19th century) and a quick glance at the prose made me a little worried about whether I would even be able to make sense of it. However, I persevered and now I've finished all the stories and am sad cause I know there's no more to read.

Poe understands horror and suspense to perfection. He also understands a lot of other things which nobody seems to appreciate anymore, IMO.

Some of the more surreal stories in this collection reminded me strongly of Gogol. I'm not really a fan of surreal writing, but many of the other stories - especially the 'futuristic technology' ones - reminded me of some of Conan Doyle's stories, which is some of the highest praise I could give an author.
In particular, I'm indebted to Poe for inspiring Conan Doyles's Sherlock Holmes, one of my favorite literary protagonists of all time. I actually think the Sherlock Holmes stories are better developed than Poe's detective tales, but one can forgive him since he pioneered the detective genre.

My favorite story, by far, was 'Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym'. I love a good adventure story, and this was an epic that just went on and on and oooon....in a very good way. It also showed how incredibly educated the author was on everything from the breedings habits of sea-birds to handling a ship. I learnt so much about random subjects from this story.

I was going to try to list some of my other favorites, but there are just too many so I'm leaving it at this. ( )
  dorotheabaker | Nov 14, 2013 |
Stories read in this collection: Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Purloined Letter
  nlgeorge | Aug 12, 2012 |

I was completely unfamiliar with Poe's prose before launching into this collection of his complete stories. I must say that I wish I had bought a 'Best Of Poe' rather than a Complete Poe. The sad truth is that a lot of the stories are pretty rubbish. His philosophising about death and aesthetics is dull, his humourous pieces range from self-indulgent to racist (the Dutch being particular targets) and the early romantic horror pieces are suffused with the icky self-loathing that you might get from an author who married his thirteen-year-old cousin and was then habitually unfaithful to her.

It's not all bad. Most of the really famous stories, the ones I had previously heard of, were indeed worth reading - Arthur Gordon Pym (I smiled when I saw the Ge'ez letters familiar to me from Ethiopia), the Dupin stories (though Sherlock Holmes rightly observes that he himself is better), the Fall of the House of Usher, the Cask of Amontillado, and basically everything that Zelazny references in his A Dark Travelling. Two stories I had not heard of that I also enjoyed were the end-of-the-world tale of Eiros and Charmion, and the doppelganger yarn of William Wilson. But Poe wrote an awful lot of rubbish as well, and you can skip it in good conscience. ( )
  nwhyte | Mar 7, 2011 |
This is very thrilling story.
I was interested in his book because Japanese famous writer Ranpo Edogawa is made by changing Edgar Allan Poe.
The story is nice.
But a little dreadful ( )
  Orix_Bluewave | Nov 21, 2010 |

In a letter, Roderick Usher urges a nameless narrator to come and visit him because he has an illness and thus seeks his comfort. As soon as the narrator arrives at the House of Usher, he describes it as “a mystery all insoluble”, as a “melancholy” house with “dark and intricate passages”, and as a mansion of “insufferable gloom”. He just has an uneasy feeling about his friend’s house and thinks that the atmosphere of the house has “no affinity with the air of heaven”. To him, the atmosphere of his friend’s house appears to be an atmosphere of “sorrow”. Everything seems to be dark and sombre: the walls, the floors, the draperies; even the air is gloomy. Moreover, the house seems to be in need of some renovations, since it has a crumbling and decayed appearance.

When the narrator meets his friend, Roderick Usher, whom he has known since they were boys, he is surprised to see how much he has changed and he notices that his friend has “an excessive nervous agitation”. Roderick then tells the narrator about his illness and states that his ancestors also suffered from the same illness. He describes that he can only wear specific clothes and that he can only eat certain foods. He is also very sensitive to light and sensitive to certain smells and sounds. Roderick fears that he will soon die because of his illness. Thus, the reader can conclude that the narrator’s friend suffers from hyperesthesia and hypochondria. The narrator also reveals that Roderick’s beloved twin sister Madeline has a “severe” and “long-continued” illness. Lady Madeline’s illness is described as “a gradual wasting away of the person”. It is said that she falls into death – like trances and that the doctors cannot do anything for her. Therefore, the narrator does not expect to see her during his stay.

In the meantime, he tries to cheer Roderick by painting with him and reading to him. Even though Roderick is very sensitive to sounds, he can tolerate the sound of stringed instruments and thus he likes to play guitar. After he sings, Roderick tells the narrator that he believes the mansion he lives in to be sentience (sentience = the ability to feel or perceive subjectively). The reason why he believes his house to be sentience is due to the arrangement of the masonry and the vegetation surrounding it.

Later, Roderick informs his friend that his sister has died and that he intends to preserve her body for a fortnight in one of the vaults within the main walls of the building, before they permanently bury her. Over the next week, the narrator observes a change in his friend’s behaviour and notices that Roderick’s “ordinary manner” has vanished. The narrator becomes more and more agitated and doesn’t know why. One night, as a storm begins, Roderick comes to his friend’s room and shows him how outside, the tarn surrounding the mansion seems to glow in the dark, even though there is no lightning. In order to calm his friend, the narrator decides to read Roderick a story, The Mad Trist, which is a novel about a knight who finds a palace of gold guarded by a dragon. As the narrator reads this story, strange noises and cracking sounds are heard in the house. When a shrieking is heard, Roderick becomes very irritable and hysterical and states that these screaming sounds are made by his sister, who is in fact not dead. He claims that Madeline was alive when she was entombed and that his twin sister has come to take revenge on him. At that very moment, Madeline appears and “falls violently in death upon her brother”, who then dies of his own horror. After witnessing this terror, the narrator flees and notices how lighting destroys the House of Usher.

Edgar Allan Poe does a wonderful job creating a dark and gloomy atmosphere throughout the story (even the day the narrator arrives at his friend’s house is described as “dull, dark and soundless”) by effectively using various Gothic elements and thus building up suspense.

The author only allows us to see the thoughts and feelings of the nameless narrator, since we are dealing with a first-person narrator. Therefore, the narrator becomes unreliable and we have to ask ourselves how much we can trust him and how we should interpret the story. The unreliability of the narrator can be due to his psychological instability or his lack of knowledge.

The Fall of the House of Usher does not only refer to the actual structure of the Usher house, but also to the Usher family itself. Thus, is has a double function and stands both for the decay of the house and the family. The author humanizes the house and uses adjectives such as “eye-like” (referring to its windows) to describe it. The house is the first “character” that is introduced to us by the narrator and it plays a significant role throughout the story. At the end, the Usher house “dies” along with the Usher family. The House of Usher is depicted as a ruinous and crumbling mansion, whose sings of degradation perfectly reflect Roderick’s deteriorating mental state. The decay of the Usher house and the Usher family is often seen as a symbol for the psychological destruction of the narrator.

The Fall of the House of Usher is a great short story and I recommend it to everyone who loves Gothic stories as this is truly a masterpiece of American Gothic Literature! ( )
  A.G. | Aug 7, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (29 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edgar Allan Poeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blackmur, R. P.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First 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 evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.
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Disambiguation notice
This short story collection contains:
  • The balloon-hoax
  • Ms found in a bottle
  • A decent into the maelstrom
  • The murders in the Rue Morgue
  • The purloined letter
  • The black cat
  • The fall of the House of Usher
  • The pit and the pendulum
  • The masque of the red death
  • The cask of Amontillado
  • The tell-tale heart
  • Diddling
  • The man that was used up
  • Narrativeof A. Gordon Pym

Please do not combine it with any of the individual stories, or with collections containing different stories.
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Book description
This short story collection contains:
  • The balloon-hoax
  • Ms found in a bottle
  • A decent into the maelstrom
  • The murders in the Rue Morgue
  • The purloined letter
  • The black cat
  • The fall of the House of Usher
  • The pit and the pendulum
  • The masque of the red death
  • The cask of Amontillado
  • The tell-tale heart
  • Diddling
  • The man that was used up
  • Narrativeof A. Gordon Pym
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451526759, Mass Market Paperback)

The eerie tales of Edgar Allan Poe remain among the most brilliant and influential works in American literature. Some of the celebrated tales contained in this unique volume include: the world's finest two detective stories - "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Purloined Letter"; and three stories sure to make a reader's hair stand on end - "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Tell-Tlae Heart," and "The Masque of the Red Death."

* Includes a New Introduction by Stephen Marlowe, author of The Memoirs of Christopher Columbus and The Lighthouse at the End of the World
* The Signet Classic Edition of The Fall of the House of Usher has over 250,000 copies in print! Course Adoption: High School: Senior High School Literature College: 19th Century American Literature

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:45 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Presents fifteen short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, including "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Tell-Tale Heart," and "Narrative of A. Gordon Pym,"

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11 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439815, 0451530314, 0141336595

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