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Metaphor in The Fall of the House of Usher

Metaphor Examples in The Fall of the House of Usher:

The Fall of the House of Usher

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"enshrouded the mansion...."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

The verb “enshrouded” metaphorically figures the clouds as a shroud—or funeral pall—over the house. The image thus presages the house’s death. The image also draws on Madeline’s corpse, which, too, is wrapped in a shroud. As a result there is a subtle analogy created between Madeline and the house, a connection that has so far been more explicitly drawn between Roderick and the house.

"throughout his whole countenance there reigned a stony rigidity. But, as I placed my hand upon his shoulder, there came a strong shudder over his whole person;..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

The house-as-person metaphor that has run as a thread throughout the story is here inverted into that of person-as-house. This inversion blurs the normal tenor-and-vehicle relationship, in which one object serves as a tool to describe the other. It is now clear that both Ushers, the mansion and Roderick, are engaged in a symbolic symbiosis.

"Bending closely over him, I at length drank in the hideous import of his words...."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

In this evocative and bizarre passage, the narrator metaphorically drinks in Roderick’s utterances. Poe hinges the metaphor on the word “import,” which carries a double meaning. At the surface, “import” refers to the meaning or significance of a statement. “Import” also refers to a commodity that has been imported from another country. Thus we encounter the image of the narrator drinking Roderick’s words as if they were wine of some French vintage.

"the hours waned and waned away..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

The description of the hours that “waned and waned away” evokes the phases of the lunar cycle. When the moon spins around the earth from full to new, it is said to wane, a two week process during which it disappears from view. The waning hours thus carry a strong metaphorical undertone.

"Once a fair and stately palace—      Radiant palace—reared its head...."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

The poem “The Haunted Palace” is a centered around a conceit of the palace as a human head, as introduced in these lines. Subsequent stanzas fill out the details of the palatial head: the roof’s golden banners as the hair; the two great windows as the eyes; the door set with pearl and ruby as the mouth, teeth, and tongue. The monarch within is “Thought” himself. As the poem comes to an end, the joyful inhabitants of the palace are replaced by evil, sorrowful ones. This story can be seen as a parable of diminishing mental health, which is apt considering the despairing denizens of the Usher mansion.

"the physique of the gray walls and turrets..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

This passage offers another instance in which the metaphor of the mansion as human is underscored. Rather than arising through an explicit simile, however, the metaphor emerges through the word “physique.” The word works literally here, to be sure: "physique” refers to the physicality of an object. But the connotation of human anatomy is inescapable. The house is figured as a body.

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