The Fall of the House of Usher

Mind-Body Dualism in Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” College

The mind-body divide, or mind-body dualism, was a philosophical theory that gained popularity in the seventeenth century and flourished thereafter. In this theory, the mind and body are separate entities, and in literature, this meant that men were normally representative of the mind and women were normally representative of the body. One example of this can be seen in Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic short story “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Through analyzing Descartes’ idea of substance mind-body dualism and the subsequent idea of interactionism, it becomes apparent that the characters of Roderick and Madeline Usher are representative of the mind and body respectively and influence one anther accordingly.

Classically, the idea of mind-body dualism originated with the ideas of Plato and Aristotle; however, the more modern versions of dualism, known as substance dualism, are more firmly grounded in René Descartes’ Meditations. In this work, he argues that there are “two kinds of substance: matter, of which the essential property is that it is spatially extended; and mind, of which the essential property is that it thinks” (Robinson). In simpler terms, Descartes believed that humans possess a physical, material body and a...

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