The Fall of the House of Usher In Edgar Allen Poe's, "Fall of the House of Usher", Poe utilizes life-like characteristics of a decaying house to give it an unnatural or supernatural atmosphere, and in effect bring it's inhabitants to their impending doom.
From the beginning of the story, the house is given a supernatural and unusual atmosphere, Usher's house, its windows, bricks, and dungeon are all used to portray a dismal and unusual atmosphere. When the narrator is approaching the house of his friend, Roderick Usher, Poe refers to the house as the "Ã¢ÂÂ¦melancholy House of Usher" (718). This could be interpreted as the house being in a state of depression, in reality houses don't have a sense of feeling, Poe is giving the house life with these words. This is the first sign of a supernatural or unusual atmosphere.
When the narrator is examining the building from the outside he describes what he is seeing and how he feels as he looks upon the house, "the vacant eye-like windowsÃ¢ÂÂ¦upon a few rank sedges-and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees-with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium" (718).
This statement contributes to the collective atmosphere of despair and anguish, the narrator tries to view everything he sees in a rational manner, but upon looking at the house and its surroundings, he seems to have a heightened sense of unreality, as if he is hallucinating. Poe uses descriptive words such as decayed, strange, peculiar, gray, mystic, Gothic, pestilent, dull and sluggish to help set the unusual, gloomy atmosphere of the story.
The narrator goes on to talk about the increasing sense of superstition he receives when looking at the house. "There can be no doubt that the consciousness of the rapid increase of my superstitionÃ¢ÂÂ¦Such, I have long known, is the paradoxical law of all sentiments having terror as a basisÃ¢ÂÂ¦that when I again uplifted my eyes to the house itself, from its image in the pool, there grew in my mind a strange fancyÃ¢ÂÂ¦I but mention it to show the vivid force of the sensations which oppressed me" (719). In my opinion, the narrator is stating that the house possibly does have supernatural characteristics.
Upon entering the house, the narrator examines the interior and notices the gloom that pervades the interior of the home. He enters through a "Gothic archway" (719) and walks through "many dark and intricate passages" (719). He also proclaims that the gloomy interior contributes to his feelings of superstition, "Much that I encountered on the way, contributed, I know not how, to heighten the vague sentiments of which I have already spoken" (719-720).
While examining the interior of the room he becomes increasingly convinced that the house has some supernatural effect on the inhabitants of the home. "I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow. An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded all" (720).
Upon reuniting with Roderick, the narrator notices the changes that time has done to him and contemplates whether it is the house's supernatural effects that are responsible for Roderick's physical and mental being. "Ã¢ÂÂ¦in regard to an influence whose suppositious force was conveyed in terms to shadowy here to be restated-and influence which some peculiarities in the mere form and substance of his family mansion, had, by dint of long sufferance, he said, obtained over his spirit-an effect which the physique of the gray walls and turrets, and of the dim tarn into which they all looked down, had, at length, brought about upon the morale of his existence"(721). Here he in my opinion he is stating that the atmosphere of the house has been responsible for the strangeness of his family and his habits.
The narrator himself almost seems to have supernatural features when he sees Lady Madeline for the first time, "and I learned that the glimpse I had obtained of her person would be thus probably the last I should obtain-that the lady, at least while living, would be seen by me no more"(722). The narrator here seems to be foreseeing what might possibly happen to Madeline, giving himself supernatural qualities.
At one point in the story the narrator makes speculations towards possible supernatural entities, which helps to give the story the feeling of a supernatural atmosphere. "No outlet was observed in any portion of its vast extent, and no torch, or other artificial source of light was discernible-yet a flood of intense rays rolled throughout, and bathed the whole in a ghastly and inappropriate splendor"(723) In one point in the story, Usher's superstitions start to have profound effects on the narrator, "Ã¢ÂÂ¦as I beheld him gazing upon vacancy for long hours, in an attitude of the profoundest attention, as if listening to some imaginary sound. It was no wonder that his condition terrified-that it infected me. I felt creeping upon me, by slow yet certain degrees, the wild influences of his own fantastic yet impressive superstitions" (727).
In the storm scene in the story, when the narrator reads aloud to calm Roderick, both the narrator and Usher become entangled in the supernatural and unusual chain of events. He reads from Usher's favorite book of vigils for the dead, a book that is about death, magic, mysticism, the occult, and torture. All these things show that Usher is unstable, obsessed with death and the supernatural realm. As he reads to him, the book seems to become alive and the narrator himself starts to hear sounds like the scream of the dragon being slain, "Ã¢ÂÂ¦the sound of the dragon's unnatural shriekÃ¢ÂÂ¦" (729) and the sound of the shield falling off the wall, "Ã¢ÂÂ¦I became aware of a distinct, hollow, metallic, and clangorous, yet apparently muffled reverberation"(729).
In conclusion, through giving life-like characteristics to inanimate objects, Poe is able to give the "Fall of the House of Usher" an unnatural or supernatural atmosphere, which in effect brings it's inhabitants to their impending doom.