Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”
In ALL questions, consider the following: Poe believed that all aspects of a story should help to focus on a single effect on the reader. Keep in mind the issues we have covered concerning NARRATIVE, PLOT, IMAGERY, SETTING, and TONE in fiction thus far. What elements of Romanticism do you see? What elements of The Gothic do you see? What elements of Dark Romanticism (or American Gothic) do you see?
1) Describe the room that Roderick Usher is staying in. What elements from the questions above do you see throughout the setting of the story?
2) Do you consider this story to have a reliable narrator? Why or why not? To answer this, consider the following: How does the narrator hear from Roderick? The narrator is struck by Roderick’s excessive nervous agitation. However, he had been prepared for something like this. What had prepared him? How did the narrator and Roderick know each other? Is this a proper explanation for their relationship and knowledge of one another? Explain.
3) Roderick describes his illness to the narrator. What are some of the things he is bothered by? What is Madeline’s long lasting illness? How has it been treated? What does this tell you? Frame your answer with regard to the questions at the beginning of this post.
4) When Madeline dies, what does Roderick plan to do with the body? Why? Describe the vault in which the narrator and Roderick place Madeline’s coffin. As they gaze on Madeline, the narrator commented on her resemblance to Roderick. What does he tell the narrator? What does all this mean?
5) After Madeline’s death, how did Roderick change? What does this tell you? On the 7th or 8th night after Madeline’s death, why couldn’t the narrator sleep? What imagery informs the way you are meant to understand the plot?
6) How does Roderick die? The narrator flees from the house out into the storm. A wild light appears behind him so he turns to see what caused it. What does he witness? This is an extended metaphor for the whole story. Explain what it means from the plot’s standpoint and then discuss how it fits into the broader “American Gothic movement.
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