Fall of the House of Usher

Edgar Allan Poe's story, The Fall of the House of Usher is set in the early 19th century United States. Oddly, it uses a castle for the place-setting, despite the fact that there have never been any castles in this country. The story illustrates the effect of isolation on the human being.

It begins with the narrator having been asked to visit his friend from long ago, Roderick Usher, who is having many problems. The narrator describes in exquisite detail the gloomy appearance of Roderick's castle, and of Roderick himself. Roderick is described as being very much changed since the narrator had last seen him. He is now very pale, almost ghostlike, and his demeanor is very inconsistent. Roderick's twin sister Madeline is also living in the house, although the narrator only sees her twice in the whole account. In the turn of events Roderick is noticed by the narrator to become increasingly mentally unstable. Unknown to the narrator, Madeline has the condition known as catalepsy, a state in which consciousness and feeling are suddenly and temporarily lost and the muscles become rigid like having rigor mortis. But Roderick informs the narrator that Madeline has indeed finally succumbed to death. So, they have a funeral service for her, and put her in the tomb. The narrator was not aware that she had the cataleptic condition, and as admitted by Roderick, Madeline was buried alive. The story ends by Madeline waking up, coming after Roderick, and ultimately killing him.

This story shows how someone, if separated from other people, becomes increasingly disturbed. This is true with most cases. The most feared punishment for a prison sentence is solitary confinement, where the prisoner is not allowed contact with the outside world or any other people besides the warden who delivers the food. It has been documented that prisoners in solitary confinement become crazed and extremely volatile.

We can apply this story to our lives by making sure that contact with other people is always available and solitary sessions are done in moderation. Humans are interdependent upon other humans for physical and mental health.

This story is very long-winded, but well written. It would probably not be the best choice for anyone who likes a "quick read" or a fast moving story. Some sentences of the story are more than fourteen lines long, and very tiresome to a group reading. I would recommend this as a learning device for extremely well chosen description and graphic detail, and if you like that sort of thing, I guess it's ok.

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