Friday, August 16, 2019

Examine the overtones of Gothic horror in Edgar Allen Poe’s tale The Fall of the House of Usher Essay

The Gothic genre is an English genre that was most popular in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is characterised by an atmosphere of mystery and terror. In order for a novel or poem to be considered as gothic, it must include some of the vital ingredients of the gothic genre. These characteristics include- the use of the supernatural (ghosts/spirits etc), use of dark and vast imagery, the theme of revenge (notably, the dead seeking justice), and a sense of foreboding (giving a hint of what’s to come later). â€Å"The Fall of the House of Usher†, by Edgar Allen Poe, can be described as a Gothic novel in that it demonstrates many gothic characteristics, specifically in terms of setting and character. In gothic novels, the setting of a haunted house or castle is often used. It is usually an old, dark and decaying castle plagued by a curse. The motif of a haunted house is used prominently in the â€Å"The Fall of the House of Usher†, and indeed the castle is the main setting of the story, and the centre of activity. From the start, we become aware of the dark and desolate nature of the house, as the unnamed narrator provides us with his first impressions. He informs us â€Å"I know not how it was: but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit†. This immediately fills us with a sense of foreboding. We get the impression that all is not well in the House of Usher. In light of this, the use of descriptive setting in the gothic novel is a vital tool used to create a sense of mystery and tension. This is especially achieved through the frequent use of negative adjectives such as â€Å"dreary, â€Å"desolate†, â€Å"insufferable† and â€Å"decayed†. The use of foreboding is used frequently in the gothic novel. This involves providing the reader with subtle hints of what is going to happen. Many novels use descriptive settings to create this sense of doom. â€Å"The Fall of the House of Usher† is no exception as the reader is bombarded with fateful images of the â€Å"crumbling condition of the individual stones†. This use of the word â€Å"crumbling†, prepares us for the houses and the family’s eventual fate the house’s name is Usher it makes it hard for the reader to recognise the two as different. So when the narrator describes the house as â€Å"crumbling† this is also refers to the state of the family. Because of this use of foreboding, the gothic novel is often criticised for its utterly predictable nature. Interestingly, the unnamed narrator describes the house (an inanimate object), as having lifelike attributes, for example he describes â€Å"the vacant eyelike windows†. This use of personification helps to create a monster-like impression. As a result, the readers already strong fear of the setting becomes stronger. We get the impression that the house itself will generate any terror that is to follow. Descriptions of the house’s interior used when the narrator ventures into the house for the first time describes many secret passageways â€Å"sombre tapestries† and the † Black oaken floor†. This frequent use of the colour black is also an obvious attribute to the gothic genre. Another favourite horror device of the gothic novel finds a person trapped, for example, being hidden away in a dark cell. This is evident in Poe’s tale as Madeline is buried alive in a coffin- this is the ultimate entrapment. When talking of the coffin in which lady Madeleine was entombed in they describe it as â€Å"small, damp and entirely without means of admission for light; lying at great depth†. This use of confinement helps to achieve an almost suffocating effect and is extremely effective in creating fear on the readers’ part. Now I am going to discuss Poe’s use of character in the tale, and examine how it adheres to the gothic genre. Characters in the gothic novel are often very strange and eccentric. This is evident throughout when the narrator describes Roderick’s â€Å"Mad hilarity in his eyes† when Madeleine breaks from her tomb and his intricate song of imaginary things he seems to be in his own world and distances himself from the narrator and therefore the reader. The unnamed narrator’s descriptions of Roderick and Madeline’s physical attributes also helps to create this sense of eccentricity, for example he describes Rodericks â€Å"peculiar physical conformation†. They are described as rather sickly looking creatures with â€Å"ghastly pallor of skin† and â€Å"unheeded hair†. This strangeness of character deems Roderick and Madeline alien to the reader. It is these little eccentricities that stops the reader relating to the characters, making them seem more distant. As a result of this Madeline and Roderick become scary to the reader because as human beings we are instinctively scared of what we do not understand. The setting seems almost cursed with a depression that affects the unnamed narrator as it already has Roderick and Madeleine. The narrator’s whole personality is affected at just the sight of the house â€Å"An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded all†. The characters all share the feeling of desolate loneliness even when they are all together this implies the house alters the relationship of the characters. The loneliness is symbolised by the size of the house its vastness is a metaphor for the emotional distance between the characters. DOPPELGANGER In terms of character, the relationship between Roderick and Madeline is highly important. They can be considered as doubles that is a frequent symbol of the gothic or horror novel and film. I argue that Poe was using Madeleine to represent the evil in Roderick this is what causes Roderick to bury her trying to suppress the evil in him, however he is unsuccessful as she breaks through the coffin, this shows that we cannot suppress evil inside us. This itself is a horrific idea. I am now going to examine the use of the double in the story. How are Madeline and Roderick usher similar? There are many examples- for example-As Roderick and Madeline are identical twins they obviously look very alike, they both suffer severe illnesses which affect there daily lives making them house bound this is interesting as they are spending so much time in the house the houses curse seems to affect them greatly even leading to their eventual death! The fact that lady Madeline and Roderick die at the same time could be caused by the fact the people believe that twins can feel what the other is feeling be that mentally or psychically. But there are many examples of them being opposites Roderick is male and Madeline is female she is strong he’s weak this is interesting as it contradicts my original theory. REMEMBER QUOTES. In conclusion to Edgar Allen Poe’s use of the typical traits of the gothic genre is rather obviously used in the fall of the house of usher. These overtones seem to add a sense of the unknown to the novel although gothic or horror novels are known for their predictability it is used effectively making the reader feel isolated from Roderick and Madeleine and closer to the narrator this is interesting as the reader actually knows more about the usher family than the narrator which usually causes the reader to support the person they know more about.

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