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March 15 “The Fall of the House of Usher”

March 14th, 2011 by Patricia Nichtern

Through experience people assign meaning to things that they see.  Through experience we find ourselves feeling a certain way when we see things; innocence in a baby, love in the color red, calmness in a beach and fear in an image of Dracula.  These feelings vary depending on the individual and depending on what other words and experiences they assign to certain things.  A fire, for example, can be seen as something warm and comforting, as something associated with hell and the devil, or even as a means to prepare a meal.  The narrator in “The Fall of the House of Usher” went to the house knowing that his friend, who he has not seen in quite some time, had developed some sort of a mental illness.  He felt that he could not refuse and went to visit him, not knowing what to expect of his friend when he got there, which made him nervous and anxious.  On the way to the house, through the forest, he described the clouds as hanging “oppressively low in the heavens” (Poe 1).  This symbolizes the burden that he feels he will have in trying to lighten his friends’ spirits.  He proceeds by describing his “first glimpse” of the house with “a sense of insufferable gloom” (Poe, 1).  If his friend had invited him there for a party or was feeling well, the narrator would have had a completely different attitude toward the house and his visit to it.  This also applies to the way he describes the outside of the house as having “bleak walls” and “vacant eye-like windows” which made him feel an “iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart” that he would not have felt of the space had he had been there under different circumstances (Poe 1).  Tuan states that “perhaps people do not fully apprehend the meaning of calm” or bleakness “unless they have seen the proportion of a Greek temple against the blue sky” or a home that an old friend with a mental illness is occupying (Tuan 110).  Perhaps under different circumstances he would have appreciated the architectural style or the home and some of the gothic features.  Perhaps he would have had a respect for the history that the home has within his friend’s family.

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