Gothic Literature by Edgar Allan Poe

The Fall of the House of Usher

Edgar Allan Poe was one of the most extraordinary and significant cultural figures of the Romantic Movement in America. He was remarkable poet, author, literary critic and editor. Poe contributed to the development of such genres as science fiction and modern detective story. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is one of the short stories that brought the world fame to Edgar Poe. This story perfectly represents gothic literature having vivid features of the Gothic Tale: mysterious illness, dreary landscape, supernatural events and haunted house.


When discussing the elements of the Gothic Tale it should be mentioned that the setting plays an important role. Such details as barren landscape and inclement weather are among those which create the atmosphere of horror and desolation in the story “The Fall of the House of Usher”. Vagueness of the work is another significant feature that characterizes this work as gothic literature. There is no hint where the story takes place, so it is a total mystery for the reader. This approach is used by the author to set the events beyond time and space, which makes it close to a fairytale or a myth. While reading the story a person understands that they are alone with the unnamed author and nobody knows why. The unnamed author meets his inner fears and superstitions when he speaks about the Usher’s family and their house.

Furthermore, the author puts much emphasis to the house of Usher. Its architecture is a typical example of a house in gothic style, namely the play of light and shadow signifying the confrontation of good and evil. The atmosphere of the building gives a sense of insufferable gloom which penetrates into the author’s spirit due to “the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain…the bleak walls…the vacant eye-like windows…a few rank sedges…a few white trunks of decayed trees”. This description gives us an impressive image of the horrible view around this terrifying house.

Finally, Edgar Allan Poe tells us about the characters of the story, one of whom is the narrator. The author describes the incurable disease, which is also one of the brightest examples of gothic literature in the story. First, Poe describes the narrator who arrived to help his friend Roderick Usher, who suffers from a severe mental illness. The reader gets to know Mr. Roderick whose disease progresses during the entire story, and the sickness achieves its peak after his sister’s death. Slipping into madness, Roderick spends all his time in his terrifying house. As a typical gothic loner, he avoids communication with the world with its sunlight and smell of flowers, what makes one think about supernatural creatures like vampires. Roderick’s sister who had suffered from a mysterious illness before she died called Madeline. The woman had no interest in life and that was unexplainable. The thought of her own death was slowly killing her brother, bringing him to the brink of madness. Edgar Allan Poe gives the reader an opportunity to feel the atmosphere of gloom and decay using elements of horror and supernaturalism. One of the most terrifying moments is resurrection of Madeline Usher on the tempest night. Another moment that terrifies the reader most of all is reading of old romance about the knight’s battle with the dragon. It seemed to the narrator that he heard the sounds that were described in the book.

Thus, “The Fall of the house of Usher” is an illustrative example of the gothic literature. It is full of moments and different events that give the reader an opportunity to feel shocking atmosphere of horror and pain. Described moments and portents emphasize the gothic features of this unforgettable and terrifying story. Such elements as gothic setting (house and landscape), supernatural events and mysterious illness make it possible to refer the story to gothic style.