Poe's Fall of The House of Usher Essay: Gloomy Images

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Gloomy Images from The Fall of the House of Usher

In Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher the narrator first views the house of Usher and perceives a mystery incapable of being solved. Foreboding imaginings keep coming into his mind in spite of rational thinking and reasoning. As he says, there are things beyond our ability to rationalize. He rationalizes that if he could look at things differently or in a brighter light, he might be able to change it, but when he looks into the lake he sees, with even more fear before, a mirror image of the house in all its darkness. The eye-like windows of the house reflect back at him.

This paragraph is the epitome of the Romantic movement and the story itself makes many direct and indirect references to Romanticism. Poe's references to Van Weber and Fuseli are direct references to European Romanticists. Poe wrote this story when Romanticism was at its height in Europe. The neoclassic world view had given way to the realm of the emotion. No longer was art or life looked upon as a set of rules that if one followed one could rationalize and make a sense of order out of things. Now, one looked at the emotion beneath the rational. And if that emotion was dark and even evil, it was still beautiful because it expressed a truth. Whereas Hawthorne, in Young Goodman Brown, viewed good and evil as something outside of ourselves, such as a witch or a devil, Poe seems to look within the very soul of man.

The first element of Romanticism which Poe seems to incorporate into our paragraph and into the story is the moving away from neoclassic rationality when he says that when he looked upon the house he was "forced to fall back on the unsatisfactory conclusion that . . . the reason, and the analysis, of this power lay among considerations beyond our depth." In the story, he also speaks of abandoning reason in his struggles with fear. Reason does not seem to help here. Reason has gone the way of the neoclassicists. In another part of the story, Poe speaks of the sentience, or consciousness of feeling, of vegetable which seems to grow out of the ordered placement or arrangement of the stones. But the consciousness of feeling does not come until the element of decay and fungi is added to the ordered structure.
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