Symbolism in “The fall of the house of Usher”
Edgar Allen Poe in his short story “The fall of the house of Usher” narrates the tale of a family that seems to have a strange mystery. Throughout the story, terrible atrocity is unraveled whereby it threatens to avenge everybody who dwells in the house of “Usher”. The American writer and poet is best known across the world for writing tales of mystery, sheer and horror terror in the mid 1800, though they still remain relevant in today’s literature. “The fall of the house of Usher” is a gothic horror story where the author has used symbolism to explain happenings in the house of Usher. The author has used symbolism throughout the story to bring out the intended theme of terror which arise from the multiplicity and complexity of forces which shape the destiny of human beings. The major symbolism in “The fall of the house of Usher” isthe house itself. The house is used to represent the Usher family, and through the description of the physical house, the reader is able to relate it with the Usher Family.
When an author is narrating a story, creative use of words may bring out symbolism which means more than the description of an event, object or a person. First, it is worth to note that the name “Usher” is symbolic in this story. An usher by definition is a door keeper and the family’s name is “Usher”. Roderick Usher opens a door to the narrator and reveals the frightening world which his family lives in hence he behaves like an usher. The next symbolism in the story is the Fungus-Ridden Mansion where the family of Usher dwells. The author has described the house as a fungus ridden mansion to symbolize the decline of the family that lives there. The walls of the house are occupied with fungus from the outside and as one visits, he is able to note the fungus on the walls. The Usher family has been ifected with terror, and it seems their destiny has been sealed by death. Just like the house is full of Fungus, the family which lives there has also been attacked by an unknown force of darkness. Also, the author describes the house as the collapsing mansion. The use of the term “collapsing mansion” symbolizes the fall of the family (Usher family).
The other symbolism presented in the story is the windows of the mansions. The visitor to the house notices a “vacant and eye like window (page 122)”. The term “Vacant eye-like” window in the house has been used to symbolize several things. First, it symbolizes the cadaverous and hollow eyes of Roderick Usher. His body has changed a lot since they last met with the visitor and his eyes have been symbolized by the windows at his home. Secondly, the “vacant eye-like windows” represents the cataleptic gaze of Madeline Usher. She is at her deathbed and her gaze is somehow scary showing no hope. The look of the windows in her home symbolizes her cataleptic gaze. Thirdly, the description of the windows in the house symbolizes the vacuity of life or the absence of hope in the Usher’s mansion. The family is also declining as many members have died with the remaining members showing signs no signs of life including Madeline Usher. As the visitor approaches the mansion and sees “vacant eye-like windows” he does not realize that the windows symbolize the emptiness and depression which he will encounter as he meets a friend whom he has not met for many years.
The other symbolism in the story is when the author narrates “The tarn, small lake encircling this mansion and reflects its image”. The tarn symbolizes Madeline who is the twin of Roderick and reflects her image and personality. It is also used to symbolize the image of reality that the narrator and Roderick perceive even thhough the water at the tarn shows the exact details, the images are upside down. This leaves the possibility that both the narrator and Roderick see false reality. The tarn also symbolizes the desires of the Usher family to live alone or isolated from the entire world. The family of Usher has lived in isolation after they are faced with the forces of terror. Also, “Bridge at the tarn” is symbolic. In this story, the narrator seems to be the only link between the usher family and the outside world. Roderick narrates to him about the happenings in the house and hopes that he is the only bridge that connects his family to the outside world.
Apart from the symbolism brought about by the tarn, the house itself is symbolizes the decay of family values. The visitor describes the house as having “excessive antiquity” with “discoloration of the ages” where moss grows everywhere, and there is no “extraordinary dilapidation” even though the individual stones have decayed (page 123). The house which the visitor sees in front and reflected at the pool full of vaporous water symbolizes the family itself which is weakening and decaying gradually. Roderick narrates to his long time friend that he and his sister are the only remnants of the usher family. If his sister happens to die from the illness she is suffering from, Roderick will remain the “last of ancient race of Ushers”.
In conclusion, the intense dissection of this story reveals each event, object and action as a symbol of family decay or decline and Roderick and Madeline have been left as the last ones. Most of the symbolism in the story revolves around the house. The family members of usher have allowed the house to be a mirror to others and eventually it becomes their tomb. It may be concluded that as each one of the family members fell, they were destined for a darkened fate.