Poe's Fall of The House of Usher Essays: Metaphoric Images

Poe's Fall of The House of Usher Essays: Metaphoric Images
?The Fall of the House of Usher,? one of Edgar Allen Poe?s most celebrated tales has captured the imagination of readers both young and old. With great skill, Poe has metaphorically succeeded to mirror unlike objects in nature. One can find examples of how Poe has succeeded this throughout this short story. Among one of the first examples that one can find is ??that ancient metaphor for the body?(Montgomery 373).? The ?ancient metaphor? that one can find is that of Roderick Usher and the later being the Usher house. With some close reading of the story, one can see how these two unlike objects mirror each other. To commence an analysis of the different examples found in the story, one must get some brief some brief background information. Roderick Usher was excessively reserved during his childhood and there after. Roderick was the product of inbreeding which had caused him to lead a rather unhealthy life. According to Magill in the book Masterpieces of World Literature, since the Usher family had left only a direct line of descendants, the family and the house had become as one, the House of Usher(291). One can argue that this is true, but in my opinion, the relationship between the house and Roderick can be found in their descriptions. The story?s narrator describes Roderick as more zombielike than human.
This is due to Roderick?s cadaverous facial complexion: large, luminous eyes, thin and very pallid lips, his nose of ?a delicate Hebrew model,? his small molded chin, broad forehead, and his soft and weblike hair(Magill 364). Throughout the story, the narrator describes Roderick?s large eyes and hair with having a ?wild gossamer texture? (Thompson 96). Roderick?s unhealthy life has caused side effects to occur. They include such things as looking old for his age and at times trembling for no apparent reason (Bloom 60). The House of Usher is also similar to Roderick in their description. The house?s facade, as the narrator describes, resembles a giant face or skull with its eye-like windows and the hairlike fungi that hangs on the house?s facade(Magill 364). The stonework that covers the Usher house is in decay. This stonework reminds the narrator ??of old wood-work which has rotten for long years in some neglected vault.? (Bloom59). The Usher House seems so fragile that it seems its instability will cause it to fall(59). Roderick?s complexion mirrors the house?s facade. Roderick? large and luminous eyes are a mirror image of the house?s ?eye-like? windows. Roderick?s soft and web-like hair resembles the house?s hairlike fungi that hangs on the facade(Magill 364; Thompson 91). The stonework on the facade looks old just like Usher does. In addition, Usher?s trembling resembles the house?s instability which will cause it to fall(Bloom 59-60). One can see how the Usher house and Roderick Usher mirror each other. Ironically, the story?s narrator cannot ??connect with any idea of simple humanity?? (Thompson 96) how Roderick Usher and the Usher house resemble one another. In my opinion, Edgar Allan Poe meant for the house to reflect Roderick?s mind and body. As one has seen through the external appearance of the house and of Roderick, they both seem to be mirror images of each other. As for Roderick?s state of mind, he is slowly descending into a state of mind in which nothing exits. One can see this through the paintings the narrator describes. ??I shuddered not knowing why;-from these paintings (vivid as their images now are before me) I would in vain endeavour to enduce more than a small portion which should lie within the compass of merely written words. By the utter simplicity, by the nakedness of his designs?If ever mortal painted an idea that mortal was Roderick Usher (Wilson 72).? The paintings? images nothing but rays of light piercing throughout the canvas(Bloom 60). As an amateur artist, I believe that artists express their inner thoughts through their art. If this is the case, Roderick is expressing what his mind sees, nothing. He has slowly descended into a state in which nothing exits due to the many years he has been in isolation. One can also interpret the paintings to be a metaphor of Roderick?s death bed. The narrator also perceives the painting as Roderick?s death bed. ?One of the phantasmagoric conceptions of my friend, partaking not so rigidly of the spirit of abstraction, may be shadowed forth, although feebly, in words. A small picture presented the interior of an immensely long and rectangular vault or tunnel, with low walls, smooth, white and without interruption or device(Wilson 72).? This description of this particular painting reminds one of a coffin. One can image lying on a coffin and looking up. With no means of escape, the ?coffin? that is depicted in the painting is Roderick?s mind. There are other ?objects? that can be found in the story that mirror each other. These two ?objects? are Madeline Usher, Roderick?s twin sister, and Roderick. According to Irwin?s book, ??(Roderick) projects his own morbid self-absorption onto the figure of his dying sibling, in effect turning his twin into an external mirror image of his deteriorating mental state (214).? One might say that Madeline is the reflection of Roderick?s mind and the Usher house of which will ?fall.? This ?fall? might be physical and/or mental. In Roderick?s case, he fits both categories. There are numerous ways to analyze this story and what the meaning behind it is. In my opinion, Poe did not have a specific meaning behind the story. He meant for the reader to use their own critical judgment in reading the Usher story. ?Through the hundred and thirty years since his death, that homeless spirit, Edgar Allan Poe, has wandered through our literature, tempting poets and novelists and critics to restlessness (Montgomery 9).? If this quote is correct, it might be another hundred years before one is able to understand what he is trying to ?mirror? in his Usher story. In the mean time, one can only assume that Poe meant for the story to be interpreted as one wishes to.

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