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Roderick and Madeline Usher Research Papers

Research papers on Poe's Fall of the House of Usher often focus on the two main characters of Roderick and Madeline Usher. Our literature writers will custom write you a character sketch on either character or both of them. They will also write on any aspect of Poe's work or the Fall of the House of Usher.

Roderick and Madeline Usher are the only remaining members of the Usher clan.  When Madeline supposedly dies, Poe implies the closeness of brother and sister as twins, “a striking similitude between brother and sister....” which is an important fact in revealing the unity of effect in this story. 

  • The story mirrors other literary works just as the story itself is full of metaphors
  • The twins mirror each other
  • The tarn mirrors the house
  • The music and art of Roderick mirrors the corruption in Roderick’s mind caused by the incest, “It was, perhaps the narrow limits to which he thus confined himself upon the guitar, which gave birth, in great measure, to the fantastic character of his performances”. 
  • The story is mirrored most in the lyrics of Roderick’s songs. 
Roderick and Madeline Usher

Poe also uses Roderick’s art as a metaphor to what is actually taking place in the story and in society with the loss of romanticism.  The Fall of the House of Usher, while appearing to be a simple tale, is encoded with the message that for art to have any relevance in society it must be understandable. Poe writes this story as a chain of mirrors to enforce his argument that everything is relevant to another. Roderick’s incestuous relationship keeps him from producing art that can be enjoyed. Madeline reflects her brother because he can only view himself through the incest, which is the foundation of his malady, “a constitutional and a family evil, and one for which he despaired to find a remedy”. It is this malady that produces his flawed art which in turn echoes the story of the “House of Usher” itself. This loss of art is another symbol for what Poe feels is the dying of the great attributes of the romantic era and romanticism in the society in which he lived.

In the story “The Fall of the House of Usher”, author Edgar Allen Poe never formally names the malady that is shared by and ultimately takes the lives of Roderick and his sister Madeline however the symptoms that they exhibit could be reasonably be compared to those manifested by the vampire who has been denied the sustenance of human blood. The notion is not far-fetched for characters developed by Poe and although the concept is never clearly alluded to in the story, the declining and tomblike setting of the House of Usher as well as the deteriorating physical and mental character of its residents makes it conceivable that Roderick and Madeline were vampires.

It could be argued that Roderick and Madeline were both desperately ill because they had decided to end their inheritance of vampirism by finally and purposely abstaining from the pursuit of any more human victims. They were, after all, the only members of the House of Usher left and their demise would finally put an end to the continuation of such a horrible family tradition. This would support the suggestion that the legacy of the House of Usher is the metaphor of a tomb or crypt that both Roderick and Madeline were prisoners of. Even more, the Usher family may have strived throughout its history to stop the perpetuation of vampirism that it had been cursed with. The narrator unintentionally supports this argument in his historical description of the family: “I had learned […] the very remarkable fact, that the stem of the Usher race, all time–honoured as it was, had put forth, at no period, any enduring branch; in other words, that the entire family lay in the direct line of descent, and had always, with very trifling and very temporary variation, so lain”.  

The story’s narrator seems oblivious to what could be Roderick’s true affliction and appears to assume that it is his friend’s sensitive mental state that has caused him to become a sort of hypochondriac. At the same time, the narrator’s description of the House of Usher as one that had the appearance of durability but was also decaying throughout is similar to the physical and mental characteristics of vampires who are often referred to as the living dead. However the narrator does not seem to draw any parallels between the characteristics of the House and its inhabitants. Roderick might have known his friend would remain oblivious to his condition and by inviting him to the House he could safely set up the final challenge to prove that he and his sister could end the family legacy. It is clear that Roderick gave no specific reason for requesting his friend’s visit, which would also save him from any guilt of falsely luring his friend into a situation that could threaten his own life.

The reason why Roderick prematurely buried his sister is not as easy to explain. He might have questioned whether or not his sister Madeline was as capable as he was of avoiding the temptation his friend presented.  Roderick could have seen her weakness during her brief appearance after the arrival of his friend and decided that he would have to take control of the situation. This would have been a difficult decision to make considering how much it appeared to bother him that she was failing physically. The circumstances of Roderick’s and Madeline’s simultaneous deaths gives even further support to the fact that they were both vampires who had been denied too long the meals of human blood that they needed to sustain their lives. It could be assumed that they were tired of the wretched lives they had lived to that point and were ultimately willing to die slow agonizing deaths to escape them. It is feasible that Roderick invited his friend to witness the end of their lives not only as a source of friendship and support, which he and his sister probably experienced little of during their lives, but also as a means to confirm that the legacy of vampirism from the House of Usher had truly ended.

The suggestion that Roderick and Madeline were vampires could lead to arguments that they did not exhibit the traditional characteristics of vampires or that they did not die by traditional methods such as a stake through the heart.  Nevertheless, the notion is true to Poe’s style of story telling, which is seldom predictable and frequently allows for interpretation. In this case, the possibility that Roderick and his sister were vampires allows for a unique understanding of both how and why the House of Usher would ultimately fall.

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