The Fall of the House of Usher

Describe Roderick Usher

English 5-6

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Roderick Usher

The last living descendant, along with his ailing sister Madeline, of the Ushers, a time-worn family of wealth and prestige, known as patrons of the arts and givers of charity, but also stricken with a peculiar temperament that seems to run through their blood. Never having crossed lines with other families, the Usher name lies entirely "in the direct line of descent"--so that, after Madeline dies, Roderick is his family's sole living exponent. At the beginning of the story he already suffers from a severe mental illness, which steadily grows worse as the tale progresses. After his sister's death, he seems to retreat completely into madness. Before that precipitous fall, however, he dabbles in painting and shows himself to be an able guitar player. A man of culture and erudition, Roderick Usher spends his days inside his dark and cavernous mansion, avoiding sunlight or the smells of flowers, and obsessing over "the sentience of all vegetable things."

The Narrator notes that all of Usher's usual facial features--pale skin, thin lips, large and liquid eyes, web-like hair--have become exaggerated. The skin is now "ghastly" in hue, and the hair floats wildly over his forehead. Moreover, Usher seems incoherent and excessively nervous, bouncing back and forth between vivacity and depression.