Book Review: The Fall of the House of Usher (Edgar Allan Poe).

I read Tell-Tale Heart, and I absolutely loved it. When I came across The Fall of the House of Usher again by Edgar Allan Poe, I was excited to read it. This gothic horror tale is the story of a family, the Ushers. The narrator is invited by Roderick Usher because he is feeling unwell.

The story begins with the narrator arriving at the House of Usher. The gothic atmosphere of the story starts right here with the descriptions, the setting, the desolate and gloomy feel of the land, and the house all of this sets the gothic nature of the story. The narrator himself feels uneasy as he comes closer and closer to the house, where he is staying. He has known Roderick Usher since he was a little boy and knows very little about his family. The Ushers have a history of different temperaments, but they created beautiful art and music when in these moods.

The narrator doesn’t feel better even when he is inside the house. Roderick looks unwell and very different from how the narrator remembers him. The narrator is not sure about what is ailing Roderick; he says it is nerves and fear. It is clear to a reader that Roderick suffers from some mental health ailment. The narrator spends time with Roderick, trying to cheer him up, but nothing seems to help. He meets Roderick’s sister Madeline at the house too. Madeline is Roderick’s twin, and she is unwell too. One night Roderick tells the narrator that his sister has passed away and wants to bury her.

The narrator and Roderick bury her in a tomb beneath the house; her cheeks look rosy, and she is smiling, which the narrator notices, and it freaks him out a little bit. Roderick worsens and becomes prone to fits of hysteria. He is on the edge, scared of the house and even the narrator. This leads to him isolating himself further. Roderick says he can hear sounds in the house, which he thinks are coming from Madeline; he fears they have buried her alive. Just after Roderick says this that the door of the chamber bursts open, and Madeline walks in. The narrator flees the house in horror, and as he looks back at the house, it cracks into two pieces and collapses.

This story has all the tellings of a gothic tale like – the haunted house, desolation, gloomy atmosphere, dreary landscape, and mysterious illness. There are some elements that are left unexplained in the story. I am sure it is on purpose, but at times it gets ambiguous. From the beginning, the narrator feels that there is something wrong with the house, and later, Roderick echoes the sentiment. The house has had a single-family line for generations now, not mixed with any other families. The language of the story is older I don’t know how else to describe it. It adds to the story and, it fits well with the gothic and horror elements.

The House of Usher means both the house and the family. The fissure in the wall is described at the beginning itself and it alludes to the fall of the house and the Usher family by the end. The way the story takes place, you almost feel trapped in the house with the narrator. This is what gave the horror story vibe; the claustrophobic feel you get while reading. Roderick and Madeline both seem a little off from the beginning with their similar illnesses and then Madeline’s death. The part about her death and her reappearance at the end was really creepy.

I liked how the story was written. There are a few things mentioned in the beginning that don’t particularly stand out, but by the end, it comes to a full circle. The pace, writing, and setting were intriguing from start to finish. There is a sort of vagueness in the story even though the narrator is slightly unreliable and we don’t know much about him. Overall, I enjoyed reading this story. It was different than what I had expected, with a few surprises, especially the ending. If you like gothic stories, this short story is a must-read.

*Click on the book cover above to get a copy.

Author: Aarti Athavle

Daydreamer - Writer - Bibliophile

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