The fall of the house of usher style

The Fall of the House of Usher
Jump to navigation Jump to search For other uses, see The Fall of the House of Usher (disambiguation)."The Fall of the House of Usher"House-of-Usher-1839.jpgFirst appearance in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine (September 1839)AuthorEdgar Allan PoeCountryUnited StatesLanguageEnglishGenre(s)Horror, Gothic, Detective FictionPublished inBurton's Gentleman's MagazinePublication dateSeptember 1839

"The Fall of the House of Usher" is a narrative short story by American writer Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1839 in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine before being included in the collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque in 1840. The short story is a work of gothic fiction and includes themes of madness, family, isolation, and metaphysical identities.


The story begins with the unnamed narrator arriving at the house of his friend, Roderick Usher, having received a letter from him in a distant part of the country complaining of an illness and asking for his help. As he arrives, the narrator notes a thin crack extending from the roof, down the front of the building and into the adjacent lake.

It is revealed that Roderick's twin sister, Madeline, is also ill and falls into cataleptic, deathlike trances. Roderick and Madeline are the only remaining members of the Usher family.

The narrator is impressed with Roderick's paintings and attempts to cheer him by reading with him and listening to his improvised musical compositions on the guitar. Roderick sings "The Haunted Palace", then tells the narrator that he believes the house he lives in to be alive, and that this sentience arises from the arrangement of the masonry and vegetation surrounding it. Further, Roderick believes that his fate is connected to the family mansion.

Roderick later informs the narrator that his sister has died and insists that she be entombed for two weeks in the family tomb located in the house before being permanently buried. The narrator helps Roderick put the body in the tomb, and notes that Madeline has rosy cheeks, as some do after death. They inter her, but over the next week both Roderick and the narrator find themselves becoming increasingly agitated for no apparent reason. A storm begins. Roderick comes to the narrator's bedroom, which is situated directly above the vault, and throws open his window to the storm. He notices that the tarn surrounding the house seems to glow in the dark, as it glowed in Roderick Usher's paintings, although there is no lightning.

The narrator attempts to calm Roderick by reading aloud The Mad Trist, a novel involving a knight named Ethelred who breaks into a hermit's dwelling in an attempt to escape an approaching storm, only to find a palace of gold guarded by a dragon. He also finds, hanging on the wall, a shield of shining brass on which is written a legend:

Who entereth herein, a conqueror hath bin; Who slayeth the dragon, the shield he shall win;[1]

With a stroke of his mace, Ethelred kills the dragon, who dies with a piercing shriek, and proceeds to take the shield, which falls to the floor with an unnerving clatter.

As the narrator reads of the knight's forcible entry into the dwelling, cracking and ripping sounds are heard somewhere in the house. When the dragon is described as shrieking as it dies, a shriek is heard, again within the house. As he relates the shield falling from off the wall, a reverberation, metallic and hollow, can be heard. Roderick becomes increasingly hysterical, and eventually exclaims that these sounds are being made by his sister, who was in fact alive when she was entombed.

Additionally, Roderick somehow knew that she was alive. The bedroom door is then blown open to reveal Madeline standing there. She falls on her brother and both land on the floor as corpses. The narrator then flees the house, and, as he does so, notices a flash of moonlight behind him which causes him to turn back, in time to see the moon shining through the suddenly widened crack. As he watches, the House of Usher splits in two and the fragments sink into the tarn.

Character descriptions


In "The Fall of the House of Usher", Poe's unnamed narrator is called to visit the House of Usher by Roderick Usher. As his "best and only friend",[2] Roderick tells of his illness and asks that he visit. He is persuaded by Roderick's desperation for companionship. Though sympathetic and helpful, the narrator is continually made to be an outsider. From his perspective, the cautionary tale unfolds. The narrator also exists as Roderick's audience, as the men are not very well acquainted and Roderick is convinced of his impending demise. The narrator is gradually drawn into Roderick's belief after being brought forth to witness the horrors and hauntings of the House of Usher.[3]

From his arrival, he notes the family's isolationist tendencies as well as the cryptic and special connection between Madeline and Roderick. Throughout the tale and her varying states of consciousness, Madeline ignores the Narrator's presence. After Roderick Usher claims that Madeline has died, he helps Usher place her in the underground vault despite noticing Madeline's flushed appearance.

During one sleepless night, the Narrator reads aloud to Usher as sounds are heard throughout the mansion. He witnesses Madeline's reemergence and the subsequent death of the twins, Madeline and Roderick. The narrator is the only character to escape the House of Usher, which he views as it cracks and sinks into the tarn or mountain lake.

Roderick Usher

Roderick Usher is the twin of Madeline Usher and one of the last living Ushers. Usher writes to the narrator, his boyhood friend, about his illness.[2] When the narrator arrives, he is startled to see Roderick's appearance is eerie and off-putting. He is described by the narrator:

gray-white skin; eyes large and full of light; lips not bright in color, but of a beautiful shape; a well-shaped nose; hair of great softness — a face that was not easy to forget. And now the increase in this strangeness of his face had caused so great a change that I almost did not know him. The horrible white of his skin, and the strange light in his eyes, surprised me and even made me afraid. His hair had been allowed to grow, and in its softness it did not fall around his face but seemed to lie upon the air. I could not, even with an effort, see in my friend the appearance of a simple human being.[4]

Roderick Usher is a recluse.[2] He is unwell both physically and mentally. In addition to his constant fear and trepidation, Madeline's catalepsy is also a cause of his decay. He is tormented by the sorrow of watching his sibling die. The narrator states: "He admitted [that] much of the peculiar gloom which thus affected him could be traced [to] the evidently approaching dissolution [of] his sole companion".[2] According to Terry W. Thompson, he meticulously plans for her burial to prevent "resurrection men" from stealing his beloved sister's corpse for experimentation, as was common in the 18th and 19th centuries for medical schools and physicians in need of cadavers.[5]

As his twin, the two share an incommunicable connection that critics conclude may be either incestuous or metaphysical,[6] as two individuals in an extra-sensory relationship embodying a single entity. To that end, Roderick's deteriorating condition speeds up his own torment and eventual death. Like his sister, Roderick Usher is connected to the mansion. He believes the mansion is sentient and responsible, in part, for his deteriorating mental health and melancholy. Despite this admission, Usher remains in the mansion and composes art containing the Usher mansion or similar haunted mansions. His mental health deteriorates faster as he begins to hear Madeline's attempts to escape the underground vault she was buried in, and he eventually meets his death out of fear in a manner similar to the House of Usher's cracking and sinking.

Madeline Usher

Madeline Usher is the twin sister and doppelganger of Roderick Usher. She is deathly ill and cataleptic. She appears before the narrator, but never acknowledges his presence. She returns to her bedroom where Roderick claims she has died. She is entombed despite her flushed appearance. In the tale's conclusion, Madeline escapes her tomb and returns to Roderick, only to scare him to death.

According to Poe's detective methodology in literature, Madeline Usher may be the physical embodiment of the supernatural and metaphysical worlds. Her limited presence is also explained as a personification of Roderick's torment and fear. Madeline does not appear until she is summoned through her brother's fear, as is foreshadowed in the epigraph, a quote from French poet Pierre-Jean de Beranger: "Son c?ur est un luth suspendu; / Sitot qu'on le touche il resonne", meaning "His heart is a tightened lute; as soon as one touches it, it echoes".[1]

Publication history

"The Fall of the House of Usher" was first published in September 1839 in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. It was slightly revised in 1840 for the collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. It contains within it Poe's poem "The Haunted Palace", which had earlier been published separately in the April 1839 issue of the Baltimore Museum magazine.

In 1928, Editions Narcisse, predecessor to the Black Sun Press, published a limited edition of 300 numbered copies with illustrations by Alastair.

Sources of inspiration

Home of Hezekiah Usher's son, Hezekiah

Poe's inspiration for the story may be based upon events of the Hezekiah Usher House, which was located on the Usher estate that is now a three-block area in modern Boston, adjacent to Boston Common and bounded by Tremont Street to the northwest, Washington Street to the southeast, Avery Street to the south and Winter Street to the north. The house was constructed in 1684 and either torn down or relocated in 1830.[7] Other sources indicate that a sailor and the young wife of the older owner were caught and entombed in their trysting spot by her husband. When the Usher House was torn down in 1830, two bodies were found embraced in a cavity in the cellar.[8]

Another source of inspiration may be from an actual couple by the name Mr. and Mrs. Luke Usher, the friends and fellow actors of his mother Eliza Poe.[9] The couple took care of Eliza's three children (including Poe) during her time of illness and eventual death.

German writer E. T. A. Hoffmann, who was a role model and inspiration for Poe, published the story Das Majorat in 1819. There are many similarities between the two stories, like the breaking in two of a house, eerie sounds in the night, the story within a story and the house owner being called "Roderich". As Poe was familiar with Hoffmann's works he certainly knew the story and cleverly drew from it using the elements for his own purposes.[10]

Another German author, Heinrich Clauren's, 1812 story The Robber's Castle, as translated into English by John Hardman and published in Blackwood's Magazine in 1828 as "The Robber's Tower", may have served as an inspiration according to Arno Schmidt and Thomas Hansen.[11] As well as common elements, such as a young woman with a fear of premature burial interred in a sepulchre directly beneath the protagonist's chamber, stringed instruments and the living twin of the buried girl, Diane Hoeveler identifies textual evidence of Poe's use of the story, and concludes that the inclusion of Vigiliae Mortuorum secundum Chorum Ecclesiae Maguntinae (Vigils for the Dead according to the Use of the Church of Mainz) is drawn from the use of a similarly obscure book in "The Robber's Tower".[12][13]

The theme of the crumbling, haunted castle is a key feature of Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto (1764), which largely contributed in defining the Gothic genre. [14]


1894 illustration by Aubrey Beardsley

"The Fall of the House of Usher" is considered the best example of Poe's "totality", wherein every element and detail is related and relevant.[15]

The presence of a capacious, disintegrating house symbolizing the destruction of the human body is a characteristic element in Poe's later work.[16]

"The Fall of the House of Usher" shows Poe's ability to create an emotional tone in his work, specifically feelings of fear, doom, and guilt.[17] These emotions center on Roderick Usher, who, like many Poe characters, suffers from an unnamed disease. Like the narrator in "The Tell-Tale Heart", his disease inflames his hyperactive senses. The illness manifests physically but is based in Roderick's mental or even moral state. He is sick, it is suggested, because he expects to be sick based on his family's history of illness and is, therefore, essentially a hypochondriac.[18] Similarly, he buries his sister alive because he expects to bury her alive, creating his own self-fulfilling prophecy.

The House of Usher, itself doubly referring both to the actual structure and the family, plays a significant role in the story. It is the first "character" that the narrator introduces to the reader, presented with a humanized description: its windows are described as "eye-like" twice in the first paragraph. The fissure that develops in its side is symbolic of the decay of the Usher family and the house "dies" along with the two Usher siblings. This connection was emphasized in Roderick's poem "The Haunted Palace" which seems to be a direct reference to the house that foreshadows doom.[19]

L. Sprague de Camp, in his Lovecraft: A Biography, wrote that "[a]ccording to the late [Poe expert] Thomas O. Mabbott, [H. P.] Lovecraft, in 'Supernatural Horror', solved a problem in the interpretation of Poe" by arguing that "Roderick Usher, his sister Madeline, and the house all shared one common soul".[20]

The plot of this tale has prompted many critics to analyze it as a description of the human psyche, comparing, for instance, the House to the unconscious, and its central crack to a split personality. An incestuous relationship between Roderick and Madeline is never explicitly stated, but seems implied by the strange attachment between the two.[21]

Opium, which Poe mentions several times in both his prose and poems, is mentioned twice in the tale. The gloomy sensation occasioned by the dreary landscape around the Usher mansion is compared by the narrator to the sickness caused by the withdrawal symptoms of an opiate-addict. The narrator also describes Roderick Usher's appearance as that of an "irreclaimable eater of opium."[22]

Allusions and references

  • The opening epigraph quotes "Le Refus" (1831) by the French songwriter Pierre-Jean de Beranger, translated to English as "his heart is a suspended lute, as soon as it is touched, it resounds". Beranger's original text reads "Mon c?ur" (my heart) and not "Son c?ur" (his/her heart).
  • The narrator describes one of Usher's musical compositions as "a ... singular perversion and amplification of the wild air of the last waltz of Von Weber". Poe here refers to a popular piano work of his time — which, though going by the title "Weber's Last Waltz" was actually composed by Carl Gottlieb Reissiger.[23] A manuscript copy of the music was found among Weber's papers upon his death in 1826 and the work was mistakenly attributed to him.
  • Usher's painting reminds the narrator of the Swiss-born British painter Henry Fuseli.

Literary significance and criticism

"The Fall of the House of Usher" first appeared in Burton's.

Along with "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The Black Cat" and "The Cask of Amontillado", "The Fall of the House of Usher" is considered among Poe's most famous works of prose.[24]

This highly unsettling macabre work is recognized as a masterpiece of American Gothic literature. Indeed, as in many of his tales, Poe borrows much from the already developed Gothic tradition. Still, as G. R. Thomson writes in his Introduction to Great Short Works of Edgar Allan Poe, "the tale has long been hailed as a masterpiece of Gothic horror; it is also a masterpiece of dramatic irony and structural symbolism."[25]

"The Fall of the House of Usher" has been criticized for being too formulaic. Poe was criticized for following his own patterns established in works like "Morella" and "Ligeia", using stock characters in stock scenes and stock situations. Repetitive themes like an unidentifiable disease, madness and resurrection are also criticized.[26] Washington Irving explained to Poe in a letter dated November 6, 1839: "You have been too anxious to present your pictures vividly to the eye, or too distrustful of your effect, and had laid on too much colouring. It is erring on the best side – the side of luxuriance."[27]

John McAleer maintained that the idea for "objectifying Ahab's flawed character" came from the "evocative force" of Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher". In both Ahab and the house of Usher, the appearance of fundamental soundness is visibly flawed – by Ahab's livid scar, and by the fissure in the masonry of Usher.[28]

In other media

In film

La Chute de la maison Usher is a 1928 silent French horror film directed by Jean Epstein starring Marguerite Gance, Jean Debucourt, and Charles Lamy.

A second silent film version, also released in 1928, was directed by James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber.

A devout fan of the works of Poe, cult director Curtis Harrington tackled the story in his first and last films. Casting himself in dual roles as Roderick and Madeline Usher in both versions, Harrington shot his original 10-minute silent short on 8mm in 1942,[29] and he shot a new 36 minute version simply titled Usher on 35mm[29] in 2000 which he intended to utilize in a longer Poe anthology film that never came to fruition.[30] Both versions were included on the 2013 DVD/Blu-ray release Curtis Harrington: The Short Film Collection.

Actress Gwendoline Watford made her film debut playing Lady Usher in The Fall of the House of Usher, a British black and white film version made in 1947 but not released until 1950.

In the low-budget Roger Corman B-film from 1960, released in the United States as House of Usher, Vincent Price starred as Roderick Usher, Myrna Fahey as Madeline and Mark Damon as Philip Winthrop, Madeline's fiancee. The film was Corman's first in a series of eight films inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Another monochrome version appeared on British television in 1966 as part of the first series of Mystery and Imagination (1966–68) starring Denholm Elliott as Roderick Usher. It's one of only two surviving episodes of the otherwise lost first series (the other being "The Open Door" starring Jack Hawkins. It is available on the Network DVD label in the UK. It was filmed on studio sets, recorded on videotape and broadcast on ITV on 12 February 1966.

In 1976, the educational film series Short Story Showcase released an adaptation that followed the story closer than most adaptations.[31].

Martin Landau starred as Roderick Usher in a 1979 made-for-TV movie with Robert Hays and Charlene Tilton.[32]

A stop-motion animated film directed by Jan Svankmajer entitled Zanik domu Usheru was released in 1982.[33]

The Fall of the House of Usher (2015), narrated by Christopher Lee, is an animated short film which is part of Extraordinary Tales.[34][35]

In theater, animation and music

Between 1908–17, French composer Claude Debussy worked on an opera called La chute de la maison Usher. The libretto was his own, based on Poe, and the work was to be a companion piece to another short opera (Le diable dans le beffroi) based on Poe's "The Devil in the Belfry". At Debussy's death the work was unfinished; however, in recent years completions have been made by different musicologists, including Juan Allende-Blin and [[Robert Orledge}.

In the early 1970s, Steven Berkoff worked on a theatrical adaptation called 'The Fall of the House of Usher' whose 35 brief scenes follow closely the course of Poe's story. Published by Amber Lane Press, it was performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 1974 and subsequently at the Hampstead Theatre Club in 1975.

The 1976 debut album of the Alan Parsons Project, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, adapted many Poe stories in musical form. The second half of the album was a five-part set dedicated to "The Fall of the House of Usher", with an introductory narration by Orson Welles included in the album's 1987 remixing.

Another operatic version, composed by Philip Glass in 1987 with a libretto by Arthur Yorinks, premiered at the American Repertory Theatre and the Kentucky Opera in 1988 and was revived at the Nashville Opera in 2009.[36] The Long Beach Opera mounted a version of this work in February 2013 at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, Los Angeles.[37]

The Fall of the House of Usher is an opera composed by Peter Hammill with a libretto by Chris Judge Smith released in 1991 on Some Bizzare Records; in 1999, Hammill revised his work and released it as The Fall of the House of Usher (Deconstructed & Rebuilt). This opera has never been performed live.

In 2002 Lance Tait wrote a one-act play, The Fall of the House of Usher, based on Poe's tale. Laura Grace Pattillo wrote in The Edgar Allan Poe Review (2006), "[Tait's] play follows Poe's original story quite closely, using a female Chorus figure to help further the tale as the 'Friend' (as Tait names the narrator) alternates between monologue and conversation with Usher."[38]

In 2008, a musical theatre adaptation ("Usher") won the Best Musical award at the New York International Fringe Festival.[39][40][41]

Dave Malloy's 2014 song cycle Ghost Quartet includes, amongst other interwoven narratives, a retelling of the story, with several major changes. These changes include the presence of two Usher children, and the moving of Roderick's symptoms to his wife, Lady Usher.


^ a b Poe, Edgar A. "The Fall of the House of Usher." 1839. Elements of Literature. Fifth Course. Austin: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 2009. 321-333. Print. ^ a b c d Poe, Edgar Allan (2013). Edgar Allen Poe: Storyteller. Washington, D.C.: Office of English Language Programs. p. 23. ISBN cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em} ^ Rollanson, Christopher (June 2009). "The Character of Phantasm: Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Fall of the House of Usher' and Jorge Luis Borges' 'Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.'". Atlantis. Vol 31: 9–22 – via EBSCOhost. ^ Poe, Edgar Allan (2013). Edgar Allan Poe: Storyteller. Washington, D.C.: Office of English Language Programs. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-624-25061-3. ^ Thompson, Terry (Spring 2018). "With Sympathy for Roderick: Madeline Usher and the Resurrection Men". Midwest Quarterly. 59: 255–267 – via EBSCOhost. ^ Lovecraft, Howard (1973). Supernatural Horror in Literature. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-20105-8. ^ An Historic Corner, Tremont Street and Temple Place by Walter K. Watkins, in Days and Ways in Old Boston by William S. Rossiter (ed.), Boston: R.H. Stearns & Co., 1915, pp. 91-132 ^ A.I.A. Guide to Boston. Susan and Michael Southworth, p. 59 ^ Allen, Hervey. Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1934: 683. ^ Hoffmann, E. T. A. (1990). Kaiser, Gerhard R. (ed.). Nachtstucke. Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam. ISBN 978-3-15-000154-7. ^ Hansen, Thomas S. (Spring 1992). "Poe's 'German' Source for 'The Fall of the House of Usher': The Arno Schmidt Connection". Southern Humanities Review. 26 (2): 101–13. ^ Perry, Dennis; Sederholm, Carl (2009). Poe, "The House of Usher," and the American Gothic. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 9–10. ^ Hoeveler, Diane Long (2008). "Reading Poe Reading Blackwood's: The Palimpsestic Subtext in "The Fall of the House of Usher"". In Lewes, Darby (ed.). Double Vision: Literary Palimpsests of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Lexington Books. pp. 227–29. ^ Hutchisson, James M. Poe, Jackson, Mississippi: University of Mississippi Press, 2005, p. 38. ^ Beebe, Maurice. "The Universe of Roderick Usher" as collected in Poe: A Collection of Critical Essays, Robert Regan, ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1967. p. 123. ^ Hutchisson, James M. Poe, Jackson, Mississippi: University of Mississippi Press, 2005, p. 38. ^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York City: Cooper Square Press, 1992; ISBN 0-8154-1038-7, p. 111 ^ Butler, David. "Usher's Hypochondriasis: Mental Alienation and Romantic Idealism in Poe's Gothic Tales", collected in On Poe: The Best from "American Literature. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-8223-1311-1, pp. 189–90. ^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York City: Cooper Square Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8154-1038-7 p. 111. ^ de Camp, L. Sprague, Lovecraft: A Biography (Doubleday, 1975). ^ Hoffman, Daniel. Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1972. ISBN 0-8071-2321-8 p. 297. ^ Hayter, Alethea (2015). Opium and the Romantic Imagination. London: Faber & Faber. Chapter VI: Poe. ISBN 9780571306015. ^ "Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - General Topics - A Few Minor Poe Topics". ^ Kennedy, J. Gerald. "Introduction: Poe in Our Time" collected in A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe. Oxford University Press, 2001; ISBN 0-19-512150-3 pg. 9 ^ Thomson, G. R. Great Short Works of Edgar Allan Poe (HarperCollins, 1970), p. 36. ^ Krutch, Joseph Wood. Edgar Allan Poe: A Study in Genius. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1926. p. 77 ^ The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849: A Classic Horror Anthology Editor Andrew Barger Annotated Edition Publisher Bottletree Books LLC, 2010 ISBN 978-1-933747-22-4, Length 233, p. 179 ^ McAleer, John J. "Poe and Gothic Elements in 'Moby-Dick'", Emerson Society Quarterly, No. 27 (II Quarter 1962): pg. 34. ^ a b Toscano, Mark (2013). Conversations in the Back of the Theatre: Preserving the Short films of Curtis Harrington (DVD Booklet). Drag City/Flicker Alley. ^ "Retrospective in Terror: An Interview with Curtis Harrington". Terror Trap. April 2005. Retrieved 2014-03-22. ^ ^ ^ ^ Young, Deborah (March 26, 2015). "'Extraordinary tales': Hong Kong Review". The Hollywood Reporter. ^ "Extraordinary tales in tha Haifa film festival". Archived from the original on 2015-10-07. ^ Waleson, Heidi (November 24, 2009). "Two by Philip Glass". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 29, 2010. ^ Ginell, Richard. "Review: Long Beach Opera charts 'The Fall of the House of Usher'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 5, 2013. ^ Pattillo, Laura Grace (Spring 2006). "The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Plays Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe". The Edgar Allan Poe Review. 7 (1): 80–82. JSTOR 41506252. ^ Dorof, Jacob. "Two Eli productions stand out at New York's Fringe". Yale Daily News. ^ Trav, S.D. (August 12, 2008). "Fringe Festival 2008 Reviews!". The Village Voice. ^ Siegal, Barbara. "Usher-- the musical, not the person who seats you". Talkin' Broadway. Retrieved December 27, 2017.

Further reading

  • Evans, Walter (1977). "'The Fall of the House of Usher' and Poe's Theory of the Tale". Studies in Short Fiction. 14 (2): 137–144. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Laurie Lanzen Harris and Sheila Fitzgerald. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1988. 403–5.

External links

Wikisource has original text related to this article: The Fall of the House of Usher Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Fall of the House of Usher.
  • The Fall of the House of Usher at Project Gutenberg
  • The Fall of the House of Usher at Project Gutenberg (audiobook)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher public domain audiobook at LibriVox
  • Full text as reprinted in The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe (1850)
  • Full text at
  • "The Fall of the House of Usher" with annotated vocabulary at
  • Full text at American Literature
  • Analysis by Martha Womack
  • Wikisource-logo.svg William B. Cairns (1920). "Fall of the House of Usher, The" . Encyclopedia Americana.
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Edgar Allan PoeBibliographyPoems
  • "Tamerlane" (1827)
  • "Al Aaraaf" (1829)
  • "Sonnet to Science" (1829)
  • "To Helen" (1831)
  • "The City in the Sea" (1831)
  • "The Haunted Palace" (1839)
  • "The Conqueror Worm" (1843)
  • "Lenore" (1843)
  • "Eulalie" (1843)
  • "The Raven" (1845)
  • "Ulalume" (1847)
  • "A Dream Within a Dream" (1849)
  • "Eldorado" (1849)
  • "The Bells" (1849)
  • "Annabel Lee" (1849)"
  • "Metzengerstein" (1832)
  • "Bon-Bon" (1832)
  • "MS. Found in a Bottle" (1833)
  • "Berenice" (1835)
  • "Morella" (1835)
  • "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall" (1835)
  • "Ligeia" (1838)
  • "A Predicament" (1838)
  • "The Devil in the Belfry" (1839)
  • "The Man That Was Used Up" (1839)
  • "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839)
  • "William Wilson" (1839)
  • "The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion" (1839)
  • "The Business Man" (1840)
  • "The Man of the Crowd" (1840)
  • "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841)
  • "A Descent into the Maelstrom" (1841)
  • "Never Bet the Devil Your Head" (1841)
  • "Eleonora" (1841)
  • "The Oval Portrait" (1842)
  • "The Masque of the Red Death" (1842)
  • "The Mystery of Marie Roget" (1842)
  • "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1842)
  • "The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843)
  • "The Gold-Bug" (1843)
  • "The Black Cat" (1843)
  • "The Spectacles" (1844)
  • "A Tale of the Ragged Mountains" (1844)
  • "The Premature Burial" (1844)
  • "The Oblong Box" (1844)
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Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839)Film
  • La Chute de la maison Usher (1928, French)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (1928, American)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (1950)
  • House of Usher (1960)
  • The Fall of the Louse of Usher (2002)
  • Descendant (2003)
  • Usher (2004)
  • The House of Usher (2006)
  • La chute de la maison Usher (Debussy)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (Glass)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (Hammill)
  • Usher House (Getty)
  • Alone in the Dark
  • "Lady Eleanor"
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The Fall of the House of Usher (1950 film)
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The Fall of the House of UsherDirected byIvan BarnettProduced byIvan BarnettWritten byEdgar Allan Poe (story)
Dorothy Catt
Kenneth ThompsonStarringGwendoline Watford
Kaye Tendeter
Irving Steen
Vernon CharlesMusic byW.L. TrytelCinematographyIvan BarnettProduction
company GIB Films Distributed byVigilant FilmsRelease dateJune 1950[1]Running time70 minutesCountryUnited KingdomLanguageEnglish

The Fall of the House of Usher is a 1950 British horror film directed by Ivan Barnett and starring Gwendoline Watford, Kaye Tendeter and Irving Steen. It is an adaptation of the 1839 short story of the same title by Edgar Allan Poe.


The film uses a framing device set in a Gentlemen's club where one of the members reads to his friends from a copy of Poe's book. A century before a young man visits a bleak-looking mansion in the English countryside where his friend Lord Roderick Usher lives with his sister Madeline, both of whom are mysteriously ill. He discovers that they are suffering from a curse brought on them by their father which will cause them both to die shortly, leading to the downfall of the ancient family of Usher.

Production and release

The film was made in Hastings by a low-budget company GIB Films. Ivan Barnett produced the film and also worked as director and cinematographer. The film was made in 1948[2], but it wasn't released until 1950. It was issued an 'H' Certificate, a rarity at the time, by the British Board of Film Censors. Despite its limited budget the film proved surprisingly successful on its release as a second feature and even topped the bill in some cinemas.[3] It was reissued in 1955 and again in 1961.[4] It may have been an influence on the subsequent development of Hammer Horror.[5]


  • Gwendoline Watford as Lady Usher
  • Kaye Tendeter as Lord Roderick Usher
  • Irving Steen as Jonathan
  • Vernon Charles as Dr. Cordwall
  • Connie Goodwin as Louise
  • Gavin Lee as The Butler
  • Keith Lorraine as George
  • Lucy Pavey as The Hag
  • Tony Powell-Bristow as Richard
  • Robert Woolard as Greville


^ Harper p.232 ^ Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). "Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era". Midnight Marquee Press. p.322. .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}ISBN 978-1936168-68-2. ^ Chibnall & McFarlane p.210 ^ Harper p.232 ^ Chibnall & McFarlane p.210


  • Chibnall, Steve & McFarlane, Brian. The British 'B' Film. Palgrave MacMillan, 2009.
  • Harper, Sue. Picturing the Past: The Rise and Fall of the British Costume Film. British Film Institute, 1994.

External links

  • The Fall of the House of Usher on IMDb
  • v
  • t
  • e
Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839)Film
  • La Chute de la maison Usher (1928, French)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (1928, American)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (1950)
  • House of Usher (1960)
  • The Fall of the Louse of Usher (2002)
  • Descendant (2003)
  • Usher (2004)
  • The House of Usher (2006)
  • La chute de la maison Usher (Debussy)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (Glass)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (Hammill)
  • Usher House (Getty)
  • Alone in the Dark
  • "Lady Eleanor"

Retrieved from ""

The Fall of the House of Usher Themes


The plot of Poe's tale essentially involves a woman who dies, is buried, and rises from the grave. But did she ever die? Near the horrific finale of the tale, Usher screams: "We have put her living in the tomb!" Premature burial was something of an obsession for Poe, who featured it in many of his stories. In "The Fall of the House of Usher," however, it is not clear to what extent the supernatural can be said to account for the strangeness of the events in the tale. Madeline may actually have died and risen like a vampire--much as Usher seems to possess vampiric qualities, arising "from a sofa on which he had been lying at full length" when the Narrator first sees him, avoiding all daylight and most food, and roaming through his crypt-like abode. But a more realistic version of events suggests that she may have been mistaken for dead--and luckily managed to escape her tomb. Either way, the line between life and death is a fine one in Poe's fiction, and Usher's study of the "sentience of all vegetable things" fits aptly with Poe's own preoccupations.


Poe writes that Usher "entered, at some length, into what he conceived to be the nature of his malady." What exactly is his "malady" we never learn. Even Usher seems uncertain, contradictory in his description: "It was, he said, a constitutional and a family evil, and one for which he despaired to find a remedy--a mere nervous affection, he immediately added, which would undoubtedly soon pass off." The Narrator notes an "incoherence" and "inconsistency" in his old friend, but he offers little by way of scientific explanation of the condition. As a result, the line between sanity and insanity becomes blurred, which paves the way for the Narrator's own descent into madness.


If we were to try to define Roderick Usher's illness precisely, we might diagnose him with acute anxiety. What seems to terrify Usher is fear itself. "To an anomalous species of terror," Poe writes, "I found him a bounden slave." Usher tries to explain to the Narrator that he dreads "the events of the future, not in themselves but in their results." He dreads the intangible and the unknowable; he fears precisely what cannot be rationally feared. Fear for no apparent reason except ambiguity itself is an important motif in Poe's tale, which after all begins with the Narrator's description of his own irrational dread: "I know not how it was--but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit." Later, Usher identifies fear itself as the thing that will kill him, suggesting that his own anxiety is what conjures up the blood-stained Madeline--or that she is simply a manifestation of his own deepest neuroses.


What binds Usher to Madeline, and what renders him terrified of her? If he conjures up her specter, arisen from the grave to bring him to his own, why does he do so? There is a clear incestuous undertone to the relationship between the brother and sister. Without spouses they live together in the great family home, each of them wasting away within the building's dark rooms. The Narrator describes the strange qualities of the Usher family--that it never has put forth "any enduring branch," that "the entire family lay in the direct line of descent." The implication is that incest is the norm for the Ushers, and that Roderick's and Madeline's strange illnesses may stem from their inbred genes.


The Narrator arrives at the House of Usher in order to visit a friend. While the relationship between him and Roderick is never fully explained, the reader does learn that they were boyhood friends. That Usher writes to the Narrator, urging him to give him company in his time of distress, suggests the close rapport between the two men. But Poe's story is a chronicle of both distancing and identification. In other words, the Narrator seems to remove himself spiritually from Usher, terrified of his house, his illness, his appearance, but as the narrative progresses he cannot help but be drawn into Usher's twisted world. Alas, family (if not incest) trumps friendship at the end, when Usher and Madeline are reunited and the Narrator is cast off on his own into the raging storm.


There are three images of would-be "tombs" or "crypts" in "The Fall of the House of Usher." The house itself is shut off from the daylight, its cavernous rooms turned into spacious vaults, in which characters who never seem entirely alive--Madeline and Usher--waste away. Second, Usher's painting is of "an immensely long and rectangular vault or tunnel," foreshadowing the third image of a tomb, the real one of Madeline's temporary burial. What Poe has constructed therefore is a kind of mise-en-abime (story-within-a-story)--tombs being represented within tombs. The implication, especially once the entire House of Usher sinks into a new grave below the tarn, is that the world itself is a kind of crypt.

The Arts

Despite (or because) of his madness, Usher is skilled at music and apparently is quite a painter. The Narrator compares Roderick's "phantasmagoric conceptions" to those of a real artist, Fuseli, and the Narrator seems both entranced and terrified by them. "If ever mortal painted an idea," he proposes, "that mortal was Roderick Usher." Insofar as art might be deemed a stab at immortality, the death-obsessed Usher, so certain of his own demise, strives to cling to time itself by producing works which can last beyond him. And insofar as art is a fleeting good in itself, Usher might at least claim a bit of beauty in the midst of his anxieties. Ironically, though, the one painting of his that the Narrator describes portrays a tomb, and everything is finally destroyed by the House's collapse. It would seem that his art fails Roderick Usher.

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