Published by Burton's Gentleman's Magazine on 1839
Source: On shelves
Genres: Horror, Short Story
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"The Fall of the House of Usher" recounts the terrible events that befall the last remaining members of the once-illustrious Usher clan before it is -- quite literally -- rent asunder.
The story begins with the unnamed narrator arriving at the house of his friend, Roderick Usher, having received a letter from him in a distant part of the country complaining of an illness and asking for his help. Roderick's condition includes a form of sensory overload known as hyperesthesia, hypochondria, and acute anxiety. It is revealed that Roderick's twin sister, Madeline, is also ill and falls into cataleptic, deathlike trances. The narrator is impressed with Roderick's paintings, and attempts to cheer him by reading with him and listening to his improvised musical compositions on the guitar. Roderick sings "The Haunted Palace," then tells the narrator that he believes the house he lives in to be alive, and that this sentience arises from the arrangement of the masonry and vegetation surrounding it.
Amber’s been reading Poe stories in her English class at school – it’s a shame I borrowed her book. No, I’m not that mean, they have copies to read at school. But I do have to thank Michelle at Castle Macabre for making me pull the Poe stories out. It’s given Amber and me the chance to talk about Poe stories in general and specifically “The Cask of Amontillado,” since we both read that this month.
Poe is many things, subtle not being one of them. “The Fall of the House of Usher” borders on the melodramatic, but in a good way. Poe’s writing is ornate and poetic, which is probably why I find Poe best read aloud, even if it’s just me reading to myself. This story is very much a Poe story – we have several trademarks, from the just overall oppressive atmosphere to the crazy male lead to someone being buried alive, but it’s a formula that works for him, that he brings alive time and again. The problem with talking about short stories is that every little bit counts in them and I don’t want to give too much info. I want you to go read it for yourself. I will say though, if you only read one Poe this one should probably be it. The writing is gorgeous and the setting is appropriately creepy. The Ushers are a disturbing family, twins who have a special connections, whether that be paranormal or an incestuous relationship or both is probably up for debate, but they contrast well with the sane narrator. We even have a bit of poetry thrown in. And the ending, when real events at the house echo a story that is being read aloud is fantastic. The interweaving of fiction and reality works well.