Sunday, September 10, 2006

Venturing Inside "The Fall of the House of Usher"

If you have made it through Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" without collapsing into your own pit of despair, congratulations. If not, my condolences. Either way, please respond to one or to both of the following questions:

What might the house symbolize?

What is Usher's illness?

As always, defend your response and show me your thinking. Hope you had a relaxing weekend.

26 Comments:

Blogger mattheww said...

I believe that Ushers illness is hypochondria, merely because it says in the text that "...I indulged a vague hope that the excitement which now agitated the hypochondriac might find relief...". I think that might suggest that he has hypochondria, which I had to look up because I had no idea what it meant. For anyone curious, a hypochondriac is someone who has a obsessive preoccupation with their own health. And it causes them to have symptoms of illnesses even though they are perfectly health. I feel kinda messed up after reading this but, whatever.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Lizzie A said...

I believe that Usher's illness is schizophrenia. I agree with Matt that hypochondria has something to do with the illness, but schizophrenia is when someone loses the ability to reason, which Usher himself atones to: “I feel that I must inevitably abandon life and reason together in my struggles with some fatal demon of fear” (10, Poe). In that sentence, Usher also alludes to another part of schizophrenia which is hallucination. Also, my mom (who is a doctor) says that schizophrenia can come in all forms, and the “partially cataleptical character” of Usher’s sister is another such form of schizophrenia. Finally, my mom also says that schizophrenia tends to run in families, and if Madeline Usher has what seems to be schizophrenia, then her brother, twin brother none the less, could very very easily have it too.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Jeff B. said...

I believe with Lizzie's answer in saying that Usher has the illness of schizophrenia, but I also believe that he has an inter- illness because he starts blaming the mansion for his behavior and how the mansion controls his behavior. You can tell that Usher has the illness of schizophrenia because he starts having hullinations. But I also agree with Matt's answer because he states a good point. It seems as though Usher acts like he has an illness, but yet he is perfectly healthy. This story is really messed up!

2:13 PM  
Blogger amberh said...

I think that the house symbolizes the Usher family. The house is referred to as “…. Images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye- like windows.” (Pg8). In this story Roderick Usher seems to be frail and lonely. The Usher family is very secretive and secluded, just like the house. The family’s history is dark and unwelcoming, just like the house. In this passage Poe states that the Usher house has mystery “-what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher?” (Pg8). This relates to Roderick Usher’s illness being a mystery as well.

2:40 PM  
Blogger jessie-w said...

I think that Usher suffers from madness. I plainly think that he went insane and that’s what drove him to be weak and frail. I also believe that he is taking on the death of his sister. It mentions that they are twins so maybe as she dies he also dies.
The house sets the tone and mood of the story. It goes into great detail about how the narrator thought and felt while in and around the house. I believe the house itself symbolizes a darker gloomy palace. The ushers live in this grand house but they are trapped within it.

2:58 PM  
Blogger umbertok said...

I believe that the house symbolizes the blood line of the “house of Usher”. It is old and decaying just like Mr. Usher and his sister. In the reading there is no mention of either of the twins having kids so as they die so does the house as symbolized by the decaying trees and tarn around the house.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Jordan L said...

I believe that the house symbolizes the traditions in society that are “decaying” because we don’t try and restore them. I believe it is tradition that is decaying because Roderick Usher mourned the loss of his sister lady Madeline immensely because “ Her decease…would leave him (him the hopeless and frail) the last of the ancient race of the Ushers”. This implies that after both lady Madeline and Roderick Usher die, the traditions of the Usher family will die with them. Lady Madeline in this story is portrayed as being deceased, yet if looked as closely to the passage “… the mockery of a faint blush upon the bosom and the face, and the suspiciously lingering smile upon the lip which is so terrible in death,” it may be determined that lady Madeline is not fully dead yet. This passage explains lady Madeline in her coffin and how they open up the coffin, look at her and screw the lid back on. It describes her being dead yet a deceased person would not have a smile on and blush on her face. Not only could this indicate that lady Madeline is not dead but maybe even the fact that she is being buried alive. This could be compared to the decaying traditions in our society because they are sometimes being considered “dead” and just put in “ a coffin” to be buried forever. However, the traditions are not completely dead, there is still life to them, they still can be restored but because society automatically assumes these past traditions are dead they put them in a coffin to be buried.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Brittany F said...

I believe the house symbolizes the Usher family. I believe this because in the text it describes how magnificent the house used to appear for any person passing it. "In the greenest of our valleys, by good angels tenanted, once a fair and stately palace - snow-white palace-reared its head"(12). Similar to the family, the House of Usher used to be well kept and slowly went down hill with the decline of each Usher's health. By the time there was only one remaining the house's physical appearance went with that of the mental instability of the person inside. Usher's illness is hypochondria. Similar to Matt, I wasn't sure of the definition so I looked it up as well. So Usher's were constantly telling themselves that there was something wrong causing them to develop illnesses when their bodies were truly healthy. Therefore I also agree with Lizzie by saying they have schizophrenia because they lose ability to reason that with their perfectly healthy bodies.

4:41 PM  
Blogger EmilyL said...

I agree with Matt that Usher's illness is hypochondria which is a disease that makes a person worry about their health because it is repeated throughout the reading, but I also think that the Ushers have many other problems as well. I believe that Usher just went insane which led to his downfall. The setting really sets the mood of the story and is very symbolic of Usher's health. "I had so worked upon my imagination as really to believe that around about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and thir immediate incinity- and atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn, in the form of an inelastic vapor or gas- dull, sluggish, faintly discenible, and leadenhued" (pg. 9). This is saying that there is a similarity between the house and Usher.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Alyssa W. said...

I think that the "House of Usher", like Amber said, symbolizes the family and the ending of their family line. The dark, disturbing and creepy tone of the house reflects the actions and mood of Roderick. Just like the family, the house is very dark and secretive. I also think that it symbolizes the end of the Family line because Roderick and Madeline are the only two people of the Usher family left and at first you thought that Madeline had died until the end when you found out that Roderick had put her in the coffin while she was still alive. The house itself is very old and falling apart just like the family.

5:12 PM  
Blogger karlak said...

I agree with everyone else who has said that Usher's illness is hypochondria, in which someone can be perfectly healthy but think there not and therefore start to get symptoms of illness and become sick. Which would mean that there is something mentally wrong with a person and I think Usher is slightly mental. An example of Usher's hypochrondria is when he says "I shall perish, I must perish in this deplorable folly" (pg. 10). Usher is telling himself he is going to die and he probably will end up dying just because he is in the mind set of he is going to. I also think that the house has something to do with how Usher may have become a hypochondriac because the house makes one feel depressed and dark. So i beleive that Usher thought something was wrong with him and that he was not healty when it was really just the feeling the house gives off that was making him feel that way.

5:20 PM  
Blogger danielle s said...

I believe the house symbolizes the Usher’s family. The houses magnificence faded as the individuals in the house health declined. Throughout the reading I felt there was something unknown and or mysterious about the house. I came to the conclusion towards the end that the house provoked the emotions of those living within. Like many have stated Usher’s illness is hypochondria. It’s a frightening mental disease that gives you the illusion that you are ill even though you are perfectly healthy.

5:35 PM  
Blogger BillM said...

What I understood the house to symbolize was the family’s bloodline just as Umberto and many others stated. While reading, I also did not come across any mention of the twins having children of their own making it not possible for the kin of the Ushers to carry on. The way the house was described, alluded to the feelings of the remaining family members and that like the house, being old and deteriorating, the family is in the same condition and does not look as if it will be around much longer.

5:54 PM  
Blogger MollyR said...

I think that Usher is mentally ill. I don’t think he is just imagining that he is ill. He is mentally ill because everyone in his family married within the family. In the story it says, “…the stem of the Usher race, all time-honored as it was, had put forth, at no period, any enduring branch” (8). The Usher family has always married people in their own family. There is bound to be something wrong if people are marring their siblings. The Usher house might symbolize the decline of the house of Usher. As the family keeps marrying within the family, the Ushers keep getting crazier. The house is also getting less and less pleasant to be in.

5:56 PM  
Blogger hadley b said...

Like most, I believe that the house symbolizes the Usher family and their health as well. Relating back to what Danielle said, that as the people in the family passed away, the house grew darker and more mysterious. Also, Roderick gave me a vibe that he was kind of a creepy man. He just reminds me of the mood of the whole house. It mentions that the windows look vacant from looking outside the house and that my feeling towards Roderick. Roderick is just a vacant person who is a hypochondriac that needs some friends in his life.

6:05 PM  
Blogger emily k said...

Usher may have been said to be hypochondriac, but I do not believe that was the most of his worries. He had many mental disorders as well. Sensory integration disorder is evident in the text where Poe states, " morbid acuteness of the senses," such as, food was unendurable, clothes of a certain texture only, odors were oppressive, eyes were sensitive to light and sounds were filled with horror. Paranoid Schizophrenia is also apparent in the text. "I dread the events of the future, not in themselves, but in the results." Usher has psychotic depression that is apparent as “abandon life and reason". Traces of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are present in the statement, "He was enchained by superstitious impressions in regard to the dwelling which hew tainted..." this is also schizophrenia. OCD is also present while he is fixated with the collection of stones. Usher shows signs of being morbidly fixated which could be a reason why he buried his sister alive, thinking she was dead as she was in a "cataleptical" state. "His ordinary occupations were neglected or forgotten," is a sign of manic depression and schizophrenia. Rocking from side to side while the storyteller reads a story is autistic-like; however, it is the only example of this in the story. I believe that Roderick Usher is manic-depressive. I agree with Lizzie A, however I think there was more than just schizophrenia.

6:28 PM  
Blogger CecilyJ said...

I agree with Jesse that Usher went mad. He was trapped inside the house and anyone stuck in a house that big alone would go mad. With no one to talk to it would be very difficult not to. When your home alone your mind wanders and its not hard to imagine people or things in your house. Usher is alone all the time, think where his mind wanders off to. I think that once he was alone long enough he conviced himself that his house was haunted.I really liked this story, even though it was messed up. It made me think of all the people alone in the world and how hard it must be on them, but at the same time Usher is just creepy, and I never would want to be alone in a house with him!

7:03 PM  
Blogger Cassy H said...

Emily K what an answer! "The Fall of the House of Usher" was a very depressing story. I think that the house represents a dull and dark history of a prestigious family that fell generation to generation. It shows through the tarn (a small lake), as Poe says, "I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled luster by the dwelling, and gazed down -but with a shudder even more thrilling than before- upon the remodeled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows.(8) The family starts out good, but as the generations are taken by disease, the house starts to fall. The narrator uses the tam (a small lake) as a way of seeing the developments of the family of Usher. I am not sure what disease Usher is suffering from, but I think that it is definitely a mental disease. As the disease conquers Usher, the narrator sees the fall of the House of Usher through the tarn. “My brain reeled as I saw the might walls rushing asunder-there was a long 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” (18).

7:07 PM  
Blogger shadeh said...

In this short story, a lot of symbolism is present. The main character, Roderick Usher comes from an ancient, yet successful family, and is currently living in a gloomy and old house with his twin sister. The loneliness they both seem to suffer from, appears to have had its toll on both, driving them both into insanity in that isolated miserable house. It is obvious that Usher is suffering from various mental diseases, such as a possible case of schizophrenia due to his constant habit of muttering to himself. “... I could but partially perceive his features, although I saw that his lips trembled as if he were murmuring inaudibly.”(17) The house can stand as a symbol for the rest of the Usher family. Along with the incredibly long line of Usher family members, the house in which the present day Usher’s live seems to have stood just as long. It can also represent a psychological prison, for torturing the Usher family. It can reveal the seclusion, and the deep secrets, such as incest, that the Usher family went through.

7:42 PM  
Blogger zoek said...

After reading the end of "The Fall of the House of Usher," I think that the house represents Usher's soul. I believe this because when Usher dies the house collapses, almost as though it could not go own if its owner could not do the same. As for Usher's illness i agree with both Lizzie and Matt. Usher seemed to have traces of both illnesses throughout the story. However; I leaned more towards hypochondria because it seemed that Usher created his own illness.

7:46 PM  
Blogger AmandaF said...

I agree with Amber about the fact that I think that the house symbolizes the Usher family. After reading this story, I got the impression that the house was huge but very scary and unwelcoming; almost like the house in, “Haunted Mansion”. “I had so worked upon my imagination as really to believe that around about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity – an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn, in the form of an inelastic vapor or gas – dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leadenhued” (Pg. 9/29).
After reading this quote, I got a full image in my head. I could picture every creepy detail about the house and the surroundings. This quote symbolizes the sadness and death that lies inside the house.
I think that if one lives a life like this, full of sadness and darkness, one’s future can only lead to madness. Usher lived a hard life full of death and now he suffers from an illness that is kept a secret, just like the many mysteries that lay within the Usher Mansion.

8:32 PM  
Blogger GaryH said...

I think like many have stated that Usher’s illness is hypochondria. It’s a mental disease that gives you the illusion that you are ill even though you are perfectly healthy. I also think he had schizophrenia, an inner-illness. I think this because he repeatedly blamed the mansion for his actions and thoughts. He starts to have hallucinations that make him think he is going mad. It seems as though Usher acts like he has an illness, and blames the house for it, but he is perfectly healthy.

8:39 PM  
Blogger MaureenM said...

I believe that Ushers illness is his house. That every energy that you get from the house is how Usher feel. I think that his twin sister is also part of his illness. I beleive how when she feels restless that he becomes restless himself.

8:57 PM  
Blogger JohnM said...

I agree very strongly with Jordan, that Lady Madeline symbolizes the decay and downfall of tradition. Even though they may seem died to the rest of society, they still have a lot of history, mystery, and life to them. Also, maybe Roderick could be symbolic of a society that has turned its back on tradition, just as he tried to bury his twin sister alive. As he buried his sister alive he became more insane than he already was which could be Poe's demonstration of what it might be like for a society to turn its back on tradition. Without tradition, (Madeline) society (Roderick) will be empty and feeble. And if society tries to permanently eliminate tradition, i.e. burying it alive, tradition might rear its ugly head and retaliate, such as at the end of the story, "-then, with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the person of her brother...bore him to the floor a corpse."(17) If that made any sense to you, GOOD JOB! To summarize, all that I am trying to say is that tradition still has some flavor to it and cannot be so easily disregarded.

9:05 PM  
Blogger JasonW1 said...

I think that the house symbolized the Usher family's soul and bloodline. I think this because the family is very unwelcoming and friendly just like the house seems to appear. The house didn't always appear this way though. It talks about how the house used to look very nice but as the members of the house started to go down hill, so did the house. The house is old in age and worn down just like Mr. Usher. When the twins do not have kids this means the end of the family line and essentially the end of the house.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Philip M. said...

I agree with Matt about the illness possessed by the Usher to be Hypochondria. As Matt stated hypochondriacs are someone who has an obsessive preoccupation with their own health, this cases them to feel ill when in complete health.
The house however made me instantly think of the movie ‘Fight Club’. The house in this movie is beat up excluded and used for one purpose. Although the two houses pose different purposes, the reason still remains the same. I think the house in these stories is driving them into insanity. It is obvious that characters are suffering from various mental diseases. I related the house to be a voice showcasing the thoughts and actions of the
Usher as he slips further and further away from his original self.

10:37 PM  

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