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The Somber and Dark Tone of The Fall of the House of Usher

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The Somber and Dark Tone of The Fall of the House of Usher


The work of Edgar Allan Poe is notoriously morbid and terror-provoking. Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”, with its melancholically eerie tone, is undoubtedly a prime example of such writing. Much effort within the literary world has been devoted to the analysis and critique of Poe’s compositions. Among those to study and analyze Poe’s work is J.O. Bailey. Bailey’s argument concerning Poe’s underlying objective is valid and presented effectively in the article entitled “What Happens in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’”; but this short story can rationally be interpreted in alternative ways, thus suggesting Poe intends the piece to be more universally applicable than Bailey asserts.

Bailey essentially declares the entire short story is rooted in vampirism, suggesting Poe presents the actual House and the Usher’s themselves as vampires. As Bailey explains, Poe’s description of characters, particularly that of Roderick and Madeline, provide striking evidence of vampiric activity. Among the multiple connections Bailey highlights between Roderick and vampirism, Bailey notes that Poe characterizes the deathly-ill Roderick as sensitive to light, specific sounds, certain textures, and even the smell of flowers (Bailey 454). A vampire’s inability to endure light is common knowledge among a general audience, but Bailey reveals that the debilitation of the other senses, that Roderick indeed experiences, is a “specific symptom of vampiric attack” (Bailey). In addition, Poe’s development of Madeline’s character serves as even more pertinent to this vampiric theme. Bailey describes the indicators of vampiric attack as including a “gradual wasting away” of the body and e...


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...iley is impressively persuasive in his ability to endorse a bizarre theme and convince the audience of its actual credibility. But although Bailey’s interpretation is valid, there are alternatives which can be given equal merit through evidence found within the short story. It is quite possible that Poe’s main priority lies not in a direct and limited interpretation such as that of vampirism but rather in the portrayal of the story’s overwhelmingly somber and dark tone.

Works Cited

Bailey, J.O. “What Happens in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’?”. American Literature 35.4 (1964): p 445-466. 5 Nov. 2002 .
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction Fourth Edition. New York: Norton Inc., 1990. 1390-1405.




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