discuss the interpretation of the fall of the house of usher is that the narrator is insane, and that he imagines the events at the end of the story. give specific evidence from the story to support your answer?
Answers 1Add Yours
This question pertains to the theme of madness.
Poe writes that Usher "entered, at some length, into what he conceived to be the nature of his malady." What exactly is his "malady" we never learn. Even Usher seems uncertain, contradictory in his description: "It was, he said, a constitutional and a family evil, and one for which he despaired to find a remedy--a mere nervous affection, he immediately added, which would undoubtedly soon pass off." The Narrator notes an "incoherence" and "inconsistency" in his old friend, but he offers little by way of scientific explanation of the condition. As a result, the line between sanity and insanity becomes blurred, which paves the way for the Narrator's own descent into madness.
Some interpretations of "The Fall of the House of Usher" have focused on the Narrator himself, who seems slowly to slip into madness, perhaps through the very process of narrating Usher's own mental breakdown. Key moments include the opening passage, in which the Narrator seems terrified of the sight of the house itself; the inability to sleep toward the end of the story; and the last, final, nearly apocalyptic but certainly symbolic image of the house breaking apart. Rarely has Poe's writing veered into fantasy more explicitly than in the closing lines of his most famous tale: "While I gazed, this fissure rapidly widened--there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind--the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight--my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder--there was a long and tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters--and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of 'The House of Usher.'"
The loudest of noises to the deepest of silences, a vast construction collapsing as if it were made of sticks, the whole enterprise sinking to what might be interpreted as hell: this imagery is over the top, to say the least. But it is deliberate language which does more than express the Narrator's experience and possibly his mental state. It also recalls the Narrator's descriptions of Usher's paintings earlier in the story, in which he notes "an intensity of intolerable awe, no shadow of which felt I ever yet in the contemplation of the certainly glowing yet too concrete reveries of Fuseli." In a certain sense, the Narrator has become an Usher by the story's close, adopting Roderick's eye and seeing his world. This is a friendship that has joined the Narrator to the madman rather than provided much sanity for him. Poe's tale may thus be read as an allegory of identification: the two halves of a split consciousness reuniting, the rational and the irrational becoming one and the same--with the irrational overtaking the rational.