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The Fall of the House of Usher: Imagery of Decay

Deteriorating towns are generally filled with a mere handful of inhabitants still clinging to whatever life they used to have. Houses fall apart. Quality of life decreases. People become unstable due to their inability to provide for themselves and their families. This has been seen all over: the towns become relics and the people become charity cases. When the going gets tough the tough get going; however, those inhabitants who choose to stay rewrite their endings. Edgar Allan Poe’s use of imagery portraying decay in “The Fall of the House of Usher” serves to set up the final fate of the two main characters.
Roderick Usher is a victim of circumstance. The House he has known his whole life seems to have turned against him. Poe illustrates Roderick in a way that mirrors that of the undead: “cadaverousness of complexion”, “lips…thin and very pallid”, and “silken hair”. Not only is Roderick’s physical appearance declining, his mental stability is “incoherent” as well. His psychological health digresses as a result of the culmination of disturbing events in his life. According to an analysis by G. R. Thompson, the story features a conflict constructed by Poe “between reason and irrationality” (qtd. in Timmerman). At the beginning of the story, Roderick suffered from “acute bodily illness” and “nervous agitation” which seem to be mostly self-inflicted. These then morph into “restrained hysteria in his whole demeanor” as his sanity decreases even more. Roderick starts to lose his grip on reality and slips even further into the clutches of fear and confusion. This rapid decline in Roderick’s mental health is made evident to the reader through the narrators progressing fear of him and what will come of him in the imminent future. “The ...

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...k and escape of the narrator throughout the story with images of neglect such as the “fissure” or “‘crack of doom’” in the House, the “peculiar physical conformation ” of Roderick, and the tremor sitting “upon [the narrators] … heart [like] and incubus”. These are among the many images Poe provides to spark the readers imagination in the way of foreshadowing the ultimate ending of the two characters stories.

Works Cited
Cook, Jonathan A. "Poe and the apocalyptic sublime: 'the fall of the house of usher'." Papers on
Language & Literature 48.1 (2012): 3+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 14 Apr. 2014.
Timmerman, John H. "House of Mirrors: Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Fall of the House of Usher.'."
Papers on Language & Literature 39.3 (Summer 2003): 227-244. Rpt. in Short Story
Criticism. Vol. 111. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. Web. 14 Apr. 2014.
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