Some stories can be taken for face value, while others are entirely symbolic with hidden agendas and meanings. In this type of story, the symbolic meaning must add another layer to the story. It is this depth of knowledge that makes these stories a great piece of literature. In the story, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the author, Edgar Allen Poe, utilizes every aspect of the basic storyline to have symbolic meanings and enhance the short story.
Poe sets up the dual plot immediately, even in the title. In the title, the house of Usher has a dual meaning as the physical house that the Ushers live in and the family themselves. The duality, as well as the symmetry, is a major theme carried throughout the story. The house is an old gothic style house with a fungal plant encasing the sides and vacant “eye-like windows” glowing making the house seem unnervingly alive (702). Poe adds the organic quality of the house to draw more similarity between the family of Ushers and the physical house.
The next important illustration of the duality and symmetry is the house’s reflection in the tarn. When looking into the tarn, the house is reflected in the opposite manner, making the fissure of the house appear to extend deep into the water suggesting that the break in the family is one that runs further back than what is led on to be believed from first glance. The house being reflected in a tarn, as opposed to a pond or a more shallow body of water, symbolizes the ultimate downfall of the Ushers extends deep into the family lineage.
The final instance of this theme is revealed in Roderick and Madeline. The last remaining Ushers are not only siblings but twins and even though...
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...would not have a basis as a theme without the theme of incest. The fissure, the decaying land, and the deteriorating health of the twins all set up the house’s fate, but without the cause of the fatal outcome it does not hold significance. Without the theme of incest, Roderick would not have felt the need to leave Madeline entombed alive. Roderick knew that he could not perpetuate the unnaturalness of the family’s situation; therefore for the balance of nature to be restored, the last of the Ushers had to die. The need for equilibrium is what gives Madeline the strength to return from the tomb and the ultimate destruction of the house. Edgar Allen Poe utilized the themes of “The Fall of the House of Usher” to weave an intricate web of symbolism with the principle thread of incest. The multifaceted complexity of this story makes it the great piece of literature it is.
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