The Fall of the House of Usher

'The Fall of the House of Usher': An Exploration of Exteriority, Interiority and Uncanny Possibilities 11th Grade

Like many gothic stories, the link between the exterior and the interior in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ becomes an exploration of into the human psyche. Critic Sara Wasson recently claimed that gothic fiction anticipated psychoanalysis – the genre was already unpacking phenomenon of the human psyche almost a hundred years before Freud spilled ink over the same endeavor. As such Poe’s story becomes a fascinating study into how setting and characterization become mentally symbolic within the genre, and the collapse of the house becomes an almost literal embodiment of Freud’s collapse of the “heimlich” (homely/canny) into the “unheimlich” (unhomely/uncanny).

Firstly, the mood at the beginning of the story is one of apprehension as the first person narrator travels towards the decaying mansion. This mood is evoked particularly through the use of pathetic fallacy as the “clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens”, evoking a sense of gothic claustrophobia. Moreover, the use of the word “heavens” connotes a relationship between nature and the divine. Yet in this instance the narrator is not stirred by the sublime and instead feels a sense of “insufferable gloom”. Indeed, arguably the narrator’s interior emotions project...

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