The American Gothic in The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

1555 Words7 Pages
The end of the eighteenth century brought about the beginning of a new genre of literature in America; the American Gothic. Already a popular genre in Europe, this new strain of literature in America arose to create a rather abrupt contrast to the Enlightenment foundations upon which American was born. Instead of concerning subjects of liberty and "the pursuit of happiness"; key elements of the American dream, American Gothic literature "embodies and gives voice to the dark nightmare that is the underside of 'the American dream'" (Savoy, 2003, pg. 167) Although containing many similar elements to that of its European counterpart, American Gothic has its own distinct features that make it "particularly American". These features include setting, language, style and essentially the subject of the text which concerns American history and fears. Throughout this essay I am going to examine these 'particularly American' elements evident in Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher. A work of Gothic fiction be it American or European can be identified by specific common features of the genre. A Gothic tale usually took place in an archaic building, in European Gothic fiction this building would generally have been a castle, abbey, palace or a monastery, many of Gothic architecture. When the genre developed and spread, the setting changed with the country, as America did not have the castles and abbeys that were prominent in Europe at that time, settings such as houses, forests and old buildings were used in American Gothic literature. Gothic literature is overly concerned with the past, be it the past of a country, race or a family. The setting and anxieties of the past are connected; often times in Gothic literature it is common ... ... middle of paper ... ...e. Typical with Gothic writing, the secrets of the Usher family are hinted at but never completely revealed by the author. In conclusion, American Gothic literature contains the common Gothic traits, as well as its own distinct features that make it uniquely ‘American’. The particularly American features evident in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher included the setting of the tale situated in a dilapidated house in order to adapt the Gothic elements to the American landscape. Poe used language, distinctive symbolism and rhetorical techniques of metaphors and personification in order to show the connection between the space and its inhabitant (Al-Mahdawi, 2002, pg. 2) which was relatively new to American Gothic. And finally, the concepts explored by Poe were specific to America and American people, fear and desires of the modified to suit America.
Open Document