House of Terror
The feeling of terror can be implemented in many ways. Some of the most common are short stories, books, and movies. In the short story "The Fall of the House of Usher," Edgar Allan Poe uses imagery, character description, and tragedy to create terror. Poe shows terror by using imagery.
He describes the condition of the house and the feeling the narrator gets when he first enters the house of Usher. The main characters in the story, Roderick and Madeline, are both mentally and physically ill, and have extremely pale, gothic-like appearances. There are also two deaths in the story that compound the feeling of terror because of the circumstances in which they occur. The story is a great example of how the combination of literary element can be brought together to create terror in the story. Many detailed descriptions of objects in and around the house of Usher make the overall feeling of terror rapidly come alive. Poe uses a great deal of imagery described through the eyes of the narrator to reveal his dread of the house of Usher.
When the narrator is first approaching the house, the first thing that gets his attention is a great fissure that starts at the roof and extends the full length of the house. Upon entering the house, he travels through the gothic archway and immediately notices the somber tapestries and the blackness of the floor (Poe 237). When he first encounters his old friend Roderick and Roderick's sister Madeline, he is awestruck by their appearance, because they do not even vaguely resemble what he remembers about them. He states, "I gazed upon him with a felling of half of pity, half of awe" (237). Using such imagery Poe amplifies the feeling of terror. The effect of terror is furthered by the description of the stories main characters: Roderick, Madeline, and the narrator.
The narrator's childhood friend, Roderick, has "a cadaverous complexion" that is compounded by his state of chronic depression (237). Also his sister, Madeline, is emaciated and suffers from an illness called catatonic schizophrenia. During one of Madeline's catatonic states, Roderick and the narrator assume that she has passed on and put her in a casket in the dungeon. The description of the narrator's feelings also plays a great role in the development of the story. When he sees the physical and mental states of his friends, he is horrified. Character description plays an important role in Poe's objective of horrifying the reader.
Poe's final frightening ingredient to terrify the reader is the tragic conclusion. Madeline's death is the most tragic of all because she is put in her tomb prematurely, and then she has to endure a grave escape from her casket after being in there for many days. Roderick's death is equally horrifying because the night leading up to his death is stormy and extremely spooky. Roderick dies under the wrath of his sister seeking revenge after she returns form her premature entombment. When both of the Ushers die, the house starts to fall. The fissure rapidly widened -- there came a fierce breath of whirlwind -- the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight -- my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder -- there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters -- and deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the 'House of Usher'.
(245) Thus demonstrating how "The Fall of the House of Usher" has a dual meaning (both of the Ushers die then the house starts to fall) that demonstrates the feeling of terror. Poe uses imagery, character description, and tragedy to demonstrate how creating terror is the sole purpose of "The Fall of the House of Usher." The detailed description of the characters is one of the most effective ways that Poe shows terror. He also does this by describing the surroundings that accompany the characters of the story and by detailing how each character encounters his or her final destiny. Poe does a great job showing how using simple literary elements can horrify a reader.