Edgar Allen Poe, master of the macabre, was one of the most prolific authors of his time. His short stories explore the dark side of life, touching on the realms of insanity, death, terror, and fear. In the psychological thriller, The Fall of the House of Usher, Poe examines the mental derangement and dissipation of Roderick Usher. In this tale and his other short stories, setting, in particular architecture and other structural elements contribute significantly to atmosphere and is physically and psychologically symbolic.
Although Usher?s mental illness is said to be hereditary, it is the House in which this disease of the mind flourishes. The story opens on a ?dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens.? Autumn is chosen because it is a time when the leaves of trees begin to wither away. Adding to the dark atmosphere, Poe never explicitly mentions where the House of Usher is located geographically, creating a sense of indefiniteness and remoteness.
The authour employs similar remote castle settings in Ligeia and The Masque of the Red Death. In fact, in all three stories, he neglects to mention when the events occur, further adding to the feeling of uneasiness. Without a fixed time and location, the stories are excluded from the consciousness of the real world. Similarly, The Fall of the House of Usher and some of Poe?s other surreal tales including The Pit and the Pendulum and The Masque of the Red Death are set within the confines of an enclosed area, apart from reality. In particular, the remote setting in the House of Usher represents Usher?s physical and psychological isolation.
The House of Usher was built in the gothic style, with its ?sombre tapestries? carvings on the ceiling,