The Fall of the House of Usher

The Fall of the House of Usher Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Is "The Fall of the House of Usher" a sincere expression of horror, or is Poe simply mocking himself and the reader? To what extent can we read his tale as a parody?

  2. 2

    Consider the role of the Narrator. At first he may seem the typical faceless, nameless chronicler of events, simply a window into the narrative through which the reader can examine the real man of the story, Usher himself. But he becomes a character in his own right, and the horror of the tale depends in part on our ability to see events through his experience. How does Poe lend the Narrator the qualities of a character like the others? To what extent is he reliable as a narrator?

  3. 3

    Madeline only appears three times in "The Fall of the House of Usher." How do her appearances, explicit and implicit, develop the plot and symbolism of the narrative?

  4. 4

    Poe wished to be remembered as a poet, but he is today more famous for his short fiction. Examine the poetic imagination and lyrical writing of the tale. Do more than simply identify the various poetic devices; examine the "poem within the story." How does Poe use the Gothic form to suggest or develop a new form of poetry?

  5. 5

    How do words encode actions, and what is the power of words? Consider the fact that the "Mad Trist" narrative parallels the actual sounds in the house. Do the characters give themselves self-fulfilling prophecies?

  6. 6

    Why does Poe preface his tale with an excerpt from a poem by de Beranger? What do the lines suggest, and how apt are they for the story?

  7. 7

    How does Poe describe the Narrator's progressive understanding of Usher's condition? Does the tale offer insight about consciousness, or are we blocked from ever "knowing" any of the characters? Does Poe's story prefigure the novels of consciousness of the late nineteenth century? Consider the line, for example, "I fancied that I perceived, and for the first time, a full consciousness on the part of Usher, of the tottering of his lofty reason upon her throne."

  8. 8

    What exactly is meant by "sentience," and why is this idea important in the story?

  9. 9

    Is "The Fall of the House of Usher" a love story, a comedy, or a tragedy?

  10. 10

    How does it matter that Roderick and Madeline are brother and sister?