According to Dougherty, it is generally accepted that death is the "indefinite object" (Dougherty) of "The Fall of the House of Usher" but if we take a moment to read the poem that rests in the text, we might discover "evidence of a more culturally and historically specific source for Usher's terror" (Dougherty). This source, in Dougherty's opinion, is a "wild and mournful interlude" to the tale that "so powerfully impresses the narrator, Usher dreams nostalgically about an ancient ruler who sits at a glorious throne" (Dougherty). The lord in the poem seeks pleasure and needs reassurance of his superiority. Dougherty notes that many critics maintain that the poem is a "microcosmic account of Usher's one great story" (Dougherty) but Dougherty believes that the poem reflects a microcosm of a "white colonial nightmare about the impending destruction of the southern slavocracy" (Dougherty).
Dougherty believes that the "experience of violent slave rebellion was fresh in the minds of Virginians like Poe, and southerners more broadly, throughout the 1830" (Dougherty). He finds further reason for this in the fact that "The Haunted Palace" is "over-wrought imagery of lordship and rebellion" (Dougherty and therefore evokes a "mainly political insurrection; and in its invocation of class antagonism we may justly trace the contours of a distinctively southern paranoia in Usher's" (Dougherty). A slave-owner's fear of being assaulted is realized when the oppressed "finally rise up in rebellion against their lord and master" (Dougherty). In the end of the poem, the lordship is "debased" (Dougherty).
According to Dougherty, Poe's tale "underscores in its Gothicism" (Dougherty) a "loathsome blackness Usher fears is just as much a 'phantasmagoric conception'" (Dougherty). This perspective gives us something new to think about when we consider the blood that was spilling in America. Dougherty maintains that Americans were not just consumed with disease but also tainted blood introduced by another race. An interesting theory that brings us back to the notion of blood and mystery. Poe could not explain the deaths of those around him. The pain of loss was...
We learn how life experience can manifest itself through art and serve as an outlet for feelings of isolation, pain, despair, loss, and fear. Poe manages to capture these emotions with narrators that linger on the edge of sanity and other characters that seem to dive headlong into a vat of bubbling insanity. The death that emerges from this tale is shrouded in mystery and the illness preceding up to the death is just as mysterious, if not more. Poe is reflecting upon the death that he witnessed throughout most of his life. Tuberculosis and consumption were just two of the things that snatched life away from innocent individuals at any age. Madeline's mysterious illness is never solved and her death only creates a greater impression of stress on the narrator. Death only removes the physical body, leaving the psychological to take over. The tale also reveals other aspects of society that were of interest. Shadows of alchemy and slavery are seen in the tale as points that move the reader to consider the various forms of death. Poe infuses the realm of the real with the notions of Romanticism to create his own brand of Gothic in "The Fall of the House of Usher," leaving us with the greater mystery of figuring out the tale to figure out life.
St. Armand, Barton, Usher Unveiled: Poe and the Metaphysic of Gnosticism." Edgar Allan Poe Society Online. Information Retrieved March 10, 2009. http://www.eapoe.org/pstudies/PS1970/P1972101.htm
Dougherty, Stephen. "Foucault in the House of Usher: Some Historical Permutations in Poe's Gothic." 2001. Information Retrieved March 10, 2009. GALE Resource Database. http://www.infotrac.com
Hoffman, Daniel. "The Fall of the House of Usher': An allegory of the Artist." Readings on Edgar Allan Poe. San Diego: Greenhaven Press. 1998.
Magistrale, Tony. American Writers. Parini, Jay. et al.New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 2003.
Mankowitz, Wolf. The Extraordinary Mr. Poe. New York: Summit Books. 1978.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Fall of the House of Usher." The Complete Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Minnesota: Amaranth Press:…
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