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In the Fall Of The House of Usher, how does Edgar Allan Poe lend the Narrator the qualities of a character like the others? To what extent is he reliable as a narrator?

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Introduction

In the "Fall Of The House of Usher", how does Edgar Allan Poe lend the Narrator the qualities of a character like the others? To what extent is he reliable as a narrator? A characteristic of short stories is the omission of introductions. We, as the Reader, are dropped right into the middle of the story and expected to deduce parts of the story and make assumptions for ourselves. In 'The Fall of the House of Usher', the reader is tossed into the Narrator's world and has to find his/her way around. We are given very little or no information about the Narrator, not even a name. This vagueness adds to the uncertainty of the story, hence enhancing its Gothic, 'gloomy' and 'myster(ious)' qualities. The 'desolate' 'landscape' brings about a sense of loneliness, and we find ourselves forming a bond with the narrator, as no one wants to experience a horrific tragedy alone. The Narrator finds 'the House of Usher' a 'mystery all insoluble' and nor could he 'grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon' him. ...read more.

Middle

The Narrator is the only viewpoint we have into the world of Usher. We, as the Reader, are positioned behind him, and we learn to trust in his voice and see through his 'eye'. It is his 'eye' that alerts the reader's attention to 'a barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn'. This crack represents the significantly widening gap between twins Madeline and Roderick, who form two halves of one whole. Roderick, being male, represents the rational and the intellectual. Madeline, as a female, denotes the irrational and the senses. When we are first introduced to Roderick, we are told that he 'suffer(s) from a morbid acuteness of the senses'. The 'disease' consuming Madeline has led to a 'gradual wasting away of the person', and with it, a 'gradual wasting away' of Roderick's senses, to the point where eating, feeling, smelling and seeing were daily battles. ...read more.

Conclusion

Is seeing really believing or is the Narrator's experience simply a cruel trick of his imagination? Many critics argue over whether the appearance of Madeline at the end is her ghost or her actual physical self. After all, it is so to say impossible for one to survive eight or nine days without nourishment. As the Narrator escapes for his life, he looks back to see the House of Usher imploding upon itself, and 'the fissure rapidly widened' until the entire house cracked apart. In death the twins have been reunited, and the house sinks into the tarn, the underworld. The 'entire orb of the satellite burst upon (his) sight', which sounds fanciful and a little unrealistic. Nonetheless, we feel attached to the Narrator and give him the benefit of the doubt as he is just as shocked as we are. We have followed the Narrator to the very brink of madness, and have almost fallen in, if the Narrator were not to escape with his life. Having been drawn into the 'mystery' together, it is easy for the reader to lay his trust in the Narrator and in his 'eye'. ...read more.

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