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Romantic Era and The Fall of the House of Usher Research Projects

The Romantic Era has several great works of literature such as Edgar Allen Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher. Paper Masters has literature writers that will tie Poe's work in The Fall of the House of Usher to the themes of the Romantic Era.

The Fall of the House of Usher recounts the story of Roderick and Madeline Usher. Brother and sister both suffer from mental illness brought on by intermarriage in the family. As the story opens, Madeline is deteriorating rapidly which depresses Roderick beyond his normal apathetic existence produced by his mere living in the family home.  He is convinced that the Usher mansion directs his behavior and his eventual destiny. Edgar Allen Poe uses the story of the Usher family to symbolize the fall of the romantic era in society in the following ways:

Romantic Era and Fall of the House of Usher

The Fall of the House of Usher Symbolism

The romantic era is symbolized in the detail of the house. Poe begins his description,

...of excessive antiquity. The discoloration of ages had been great…No portion of the masonry had fallen; and there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still perfect adaptation of parts and the crumbling condition of the individual stones… a barely perceptible fissure, which extended from the roof to the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn.

With the house falling apart, Poe is stating that the romantic era that encompasses society is also falling apart. This imaginary landscape mirrors human grief and the house weeps for the loss of innocence and romance.

Poe's Characters in the Fall 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, and 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.  Poe also uses Roderick”s art as a metaphor to what is actually taking place in the story, just as Poe attempts to do with his own art.  “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.

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