Comparing Gothic Romanticism in The Fall of the House of Usher and Ligeia

Comparing Gothic Romanticism in The Fall of the House of Usher and Ligeia

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Gothic Romanticism in The Fall of the House of Usher and Ligeia


The Gothic style found in the majority of Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories is obvious to the average reader. The grotesque, the desolate, the horrible, the mysterious, the ghostly, and, ultimately, the intense fear are all the primary aspects of the stories which are emphasized. But few writers remain uninfluenced from their contemporaries and Poe is no exception. He is clearly a product of his time, which in terms of literature, is called the Romantic era. Poe combines these two threads in almost all of his stories. For this reason critics often call Poe’s style “Gothic Romanticism.”

The two stories “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “Ligeia” are very similar to Poe’s other short stories, in that they to have this thread of Gothic Romanticism. The Gothic and Romantic themes can be analyzed separately in each of these two stories but together these themes drive the plot and the ultimate success of each.

One common characteristic of Romanticism is the importance of the intuitive and emotional and the rejection of the rational and intellectual. Such is the case in “Usher.” Those who are skeptical of Poe’s Romantic influences would use this aspect of Romanticism to claim that he is not a Romantic because throughout the story the narrator attempts to explain the unexplainable with the rational. An example of this is when the narrator attributes an “iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart” merely to the “combination of very natural objects which have the power of thus affecting us” (Poe, “Usher”). This argument is week because the narrator fails miserably to provide solid rational explanations for these “strange” events and f...


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...ic thread seek to further Poe’s overall goal of terror. Either they develop the character in such a way that would increase the gloomy, mysterious, and supernatural mood of the stories, establish the mood through the setting, or help to further this mood in some other way. The combination of the Romantic thread in these two stories is no different. Poe uses various aspects of Romanticism, such as obscurity and the emphasis of emotion and intuition to increase the terror felt by the reader. But perhaps, the most important aspect of Romanticism is one which is also common in the Gothic tradition is the emphasis on one effect. In the Gothic tradition this single effect is that of terror. “Ligeia” and “Usher” are no different in that Poe establishes this terror through the use of his own style of Gothic Romanticism.
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Marlow Engl. 12 Sect. 37

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