The Shadowy Third and Other Stories

The Fall of Southern Aristocracy, and the Fall of the South: An Examination of Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and Glasgow’s “Jordan’s End” College

Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Fall of the House of Usher” details the end of a southern aristocratic family line in a gothic manner which is to be expected of Poe. While Poe’s writing most prominently focuses on gothic quality, it is important to note the southern nature of his writing as well. Poe may have been born in Boston, but he was raised in the South. Although a sense of southern quality is not at the forefront of his works, there is a southern influence to Poe’s gothic writing style which deserves examination for its depiction of the antebellum South. Ellen Glasgow, a postbellum southern author that demonstrates the birth of the critical spirit in Southern Literature, uses the same underlying gothic principles and themes that are established by Poe in “The Fall of the House of Usher” in her short story “Jordan’s End” in order to parallel the end of a southern family line with the end of the old southern way of life.

On the surface, “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “Jordan’s End” both appear to be near-identical in style and story. Both stories center on the mental decline of the last of a family line, develop a gothic atmosphere, and explore the theme of isolation. However, when comparing the two stories, it...

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