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Essay on Double Meaning in The Fall Of The House Of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

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Double Meaning in The Fall Of The House Of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe


If there is one thing that is widely agreed upon in regards to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” it is surely the fact that the short story is one of the greatest ever written. The very words that Poe selects and the manner in which he pieced them was nothing short of phenomenal. This however, is pretty much all that people are able to agree upon. Indeed, to almost everyone who reads it sees the story as great, but for different reasons. In a way the tale can be compared to a psychiatrist’s inkblots. While everyone may be looking at the same picture, they all see different things. What mainly gives “The Fall of the House of Usher” this quality is the double meanings and symbols Poe seems to use throughout.

We encounter such a double meaning almost immediately, the title. While it is obvious that Poe is referring to the building itself, the reader must also realize that he is more importantly referring to the Usher family. In Poe’s time, a family was often referred to as a house; for instance my family would be called the house of Gilliam. This relationship is important when reading the opening paragraph of the tale.
The first reason that the paragraph is successful is the fact that it sets the key element of the story, the tone. When reading the introduction, the narrator’s description of the house paints a crystal clear image in one’s mind of horror, dread, death, and decay. The reader is overwhelmed with a sense of evil. However, if one was to read deeper than what is on the surface, they may be surprised. As I mentioned earlier, in Poe’s time a family was often referred to as a house. Keeping this in mind while reading the opening paragraphs, the reader can very well wonder if our narrator is referring to the building in which the Ushers live in or the family that occupies it.
“The discoloration of the ages had been great, minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves. Yet this was apart from any extraordinary dilapidation. No part of the masonry had fallen; and there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still perfect adaptation of parts, and the crumbling condition of the individual stones.” The usher family was an ancient one, and the narrator makes it clear that the years have t...


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...rect one.

The final scene in which the narrator flees the building in fear of his life and probably his sanity as well can be viewed two different ways. The first one is of course the literal one. However if you think about it as in the beginning of the story the narrator may very well be referring to the family and the destruction that follows as the house of Usher. This makes a little more sense then the spontaneous combustion of a building.

No matter what your interpretation of “The Fall of the House of Usher” may be, it is almost impossible to deny it as one of the greatest short stories ever written. It stands as one of the many great testaments to the literary genius of Edgar Allan Poe and helps affirm his high ranking of American history.

Work Cited

Thompson, G.R. “Edgar Allan Poe.” Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol.3. Detroit: Gale Research, 1979

Dameron, J. Lasley, and Robert D. Jacobs. “Edgar Allan Poe.”

Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol. 59. Detroit: Gale Research, 1979

Harris, Laurie Lanzen and Sheila Fitzgerald eds. Short Story Criticism: Excerpts From
the Works of Short Fiction Writers. Vol.1. Detroit: Gale Research, 1988


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