The Fall of the House of Usher

What did the poem talk about?

The poem in the story was symolic for the family of Usher. What did the poem talk about?

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As he does with so many of his short stories, Poe prefaces "The Fall of the House of Usher" with a relevant quoted passage: "Son coeur est un luth suspendu; Sitot qu'on le touche il resonne." From a poem by French lyric poet Pierre Jean de Beranger, the verse translates roughly as: "His heart is a hanging lute [an ancient stringed instrument]; Whenever one touches it, it resounds." Aside from the importance of stringed instruments in the tale--Roderick Usher can stand the sound of no other noises--the passage touches on one of the story's most important themes, mortality.

That the heart in the poem is related to a musical instrument, which requires the touch of a hand to function, underlines its very fragility. Suspended in air, it cannot operate on its own, but it instead demands to be "played." The very definition of animate objects is that they move on their own initiative; indeed, movement is one of the features most commonly associated with animal life. The ability to produce sound is a feature of more advanced animals.

Yet, Roderick Usher is convinced that the inanimate universe is full of "sentience," that seemingly dead objects or matter, such as the "atmosphere" he describes encircling his home, are endowed with senses and perhaps even life of their own. When Poe introduces this concept, it seems almost a digression. The principal arc of the narrative has been Usher's madness, his fear of what he regards as his own inevitable doom. Rather than a window into his tortured psyche, as provided by the bizarre painting of the vault or the improvised song of the "Haunted Palace," the intellectual pursuit of "sentience" seems a projection into the outer world, as though Usher is trying to occupy his mind with something other than himself.