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Symbols in The Fall of the House of Usher

Symbols Examples in The Fall of the House of Usher:

The Fall of the House of Usher

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"the fragments of the “HOUSE OF USHER.”..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

The analogy of house as both home and lineage—a clever double entendre—is made once again explicit in the final sentence. Because the mansion, as well as both Usher siblings, have been destroyed in the collapse, “the fragments of the ‘HOUSE OF USHER’” refer to the remains of the building as well as Madeline and Roderick.

"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.

"Such opinions need no comment, and I will make none...."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

This passage serves several purposes. First, it emphasizes Roderick Usher’s deteriorating mental state. He stubbornly believes his own theory that “vegetable things” are sentient—that is, they have consciousness. He then extends this belief to the land and vegetable matter around and within the house, claiming that it has infiltrated the walls of the House of Usher. Finally, he makes the claim that this sentience has influenced “the destinies of his family.” The narrator’s startled reaction is justified, because Roderick is essentially claiming that the House is alive and has a will of its own.

"a barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction..."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

A fissure, or crack, along the entirety of the house suggests that the foundation and supports have been compromised, meaning that the house is unstable. Since much has already been said about the House and the Usher family being essentially one and the same, the presence of this fissure serves as a symbol for the fate of the family.

"I know not how it was—but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit...."   (The Fall of the House of Usher)

In this famous quote, the narrator looks upon the House of Usher and immediately feels “a sense of insufferable gloom.” The house itself serves as a symbol for the family that lives within it, nearly becoming a character itself—a popular aspect of Gothic literature. The house fills the narrator with horror, its presence elevating events in the story towards their frightful climax.

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