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“The Fall of the House of Usher” is one of Edgar Allen Poe’s lesser known works, but not so to the point of obscurity. It deserves a spot right next to “The Raven”, or “The Tell-Tale Heart” for its masterful manipulation on the feelings of the reader. And despite that unpopularity, this book is the lesser known favorite of Poe’s works for readers of Poe, myself included. All 83 (or more) stories he wrote have this connection to the reader through the feelings of the work he pushes upon the reader. Poe was the master of the Gothic style and is often used as the reference in teaching Gothic writing. Poe’s background, the Gothic writing style of the time, and general culture of where he lived all played parts in the writing of his work, “The Fall of the House of Usher”.
Edgar Allan Poe’s life is one to be pitied. Both of his parents were traveling actors, moving constantly and unable to hold reliable jobs. His father deserted the family and left the mother with Poe, most likely due to the fact of his rampant alcoholism. Shortly after his abandonment, his mother died of tuberculosis and thus Poe was an orphan. Fortunately, Poe was taken in by the family of Joe and Francis Allan within a short time afterwards. Poe lived in a time where the average life span less than 40 and death was commonplace due to smallpox, tuberculosis, measles, cholera, and a general lack of good healthcare alongside the shortage of actual doctors. John Allen, his foster father, was at least mildly deranged. He treated Poe wonderfully half of the time, and the other half he was malicious with beatings and beratings. This plethora of death and mental illnesses plays a massive role in Poe’s later life, as he follows down the same path becoming an insufferable alcoholic and plagued with many various forms of mental ailments, as clearly displayed in the accurate accounts of such in the works that he wrote. Mostly due to these afflictions, Poe bounced around schools and became engaged. He proposed to Sarah Royster and then went to study and the University of Virginia, who’s newness lead to a very unruly atmosphere. Despite the strict moral rules based off Thomas Jefferson against tobacco, alcohol, and gambling, the disciplinary rules were incredibly lax as the students were almost entirely independent and had to physically report illegal or banned activities to the faculty. Poe’s gambling habits developed here and because of that, he lost contact with his fiancé and foster father. He left the university after a year, and from there he bounced around much like his parents, taking odd jobs and trying to make it to the next day. This fall through, and Poe enlisted in the United States Army, lying about his name and age to achieve entry. He rose through the ranks relatively easily but wanted to end his 5-year enlistment before its end date. He revealed his lies and was only allowed to discharge by a letter from his foster father, so he could attend West Point and get a proper education. Further discrepancies with Allan lead to his disownment and resulted in Poe getting court-marshalled to be able to leave the academy. He left the academy in 1831 and released more works that were funded by his fellow cadets at West Point. With these publications of his poems, he tried to live solely off that revenue, but ended up begging for money after that failure. Poe moved to Philadelphia and attempted being a full-time author again, but in stories instead of poetry. This change is what started his career that would eventually
The first page sets the scene, one that truly immerses the reader and putting them in that dark atmosphere of the House of Usher. The House of Usher is given human-esque descriptions of everything from the “ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like structures” (Poe). Poe continues with his wonderful uses of imaginative description you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere. His further detail into the house and the surroundings not only lets you clearly picture it
The rest of the story provides this sense of unity, everything has a connection or a mirror.
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