The Fall of the House of Usher

Roderick and Madeline: The Fall of a House Divided College

Edgar Allan Poe composed “The Fall of the House of Usher” some two decades before Abraham Lincoln warned those living both above and below the Mason-Dixon about the dangers of trying to live comfortably inside a house divided against itself. Lincoln’s admonition against trusting the structural foundation of such a domicile can be applied with equal metaphorical application to Poe’s story. The story that is told in this example of Gothic literature is lean enough on details and broad enough on allegorical mysteries that surely one of the reasons for its staying power is the capacity to read into it an exceeding large number of interpretations—which are all capable of ringing true to one extent or another. The extent to which an interpretation of the details Poe provides in “The Fall of the House of Usher” rings true is ultimately dependent on how far astray from its allegorical foundation one gets. When interpreted as a literal example of how a house divided cannot stand, the allegorical component paradoxically becomes even stronger. The first step in reaching this interpretation begins with jettisoning one of the most pervasive and damaging literal explanations behind one of those lean details applied with broad strokes of Poe’...

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