Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, The Fall of the House of Usher relies heavily on symbolism and suspense to create a haunting atmosphere that leaves the reader on the edge of their seat. The story is rich with descriptions of both the setting and characters, and this story about the love turned lust of brother and sister comes to a tragic end in the traditional Poe style. Relying heavily on the then-new theories of Freud and Jung’s psychoanalysis (Lawrence 1686), Poe creates a story where the dark and somber house of Usher is intertwined with its inhabitants, climaxing in the end by the house collapsing along with the remains of the family that once lived inside. The Fall of the House of Usher is at heart an extended metaphor; using the house to symbolize the decay and ultimate collapse of a bloodline tainted by incest. The Usher family, of whom only the infirm Roderick and recently ‘deceased’ Madeline remain, is inexorably tied with their dwelling, as they both perish and sink into the tarn surrounding the home. Great care is given to the description of the house and how it can be seen to relate to the Usher bloodline, specifically their “direct line of descent” (Poe 1116).
It is very clear upon the beginning of the short story that the un-named narrator can be none other than the protagonist. The reader cannot help but allow themselves to be drawn into the story through his observations of the Usher household. This narrator arrives at the home as the result of a summons he received from its owner, Roderick Usher. This letter contained “evidence of nervous agitation. The writer spoke of acute bodily illness-of a mental disorder that oppressed him-and of an earnest desire to see me, as his best, and indeed only personal friend” (Poe 1116). Dutifully, the narrator arrives at the Usher household in order to honor that request made on behalf of their once strong friendship. Upon arrival, the plot of the story begins its rising action, as the narrator begins to integrate himself into the Usher household and way of life. He is greeted for example not by his friend directly, but rather a frustrated family doctor, and then an un-named servant who leads him up “dark and intricate passageways to the studio of his master” (Poe 1117). The reader almost begins to tense up as the image of the narrator moving through a completely blackened house begins to take form, the atmosphere itself depicted as an “irredeemable gloom that hung over all” (Poe 1117), slowly driving the narrator deeper and deeper into paranoia and fear.