The Anxiety of the Narrators in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Raven”
In this essay, I am going to compare the characterization of the two narrators in two Edgar Allan Poe’s works, which are “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Raven”. “The Fall of the House of Usher” was published in 1839 while “The Raven” was published in 1845. I argue that the two narrators fall into anxiety due to some Gothic elements shown in the story and the poem.
Firstly, the nameless narrator in “The Fall of the House of Usher” is invited to see his old friend, Roderick Usher, by letter. According to the letter, Roderick is “mentally disordered”. Then, having arrived at Roderick’s house, the narrator meet the family of Usher, Roderick and his twin sister named Madeline. Their physical appearances creep the narrator out since they look sick. The narrator is told that Roderick lives in fear. Roderick states that the house might be making him sick.
Secondly, the story starts with gloomy setting when the narrator is on his way to Roderick Usher’s mansion. Nevertheless, he becomes unsettled because of the surroundings.
I know not how it was—but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible.
I argue that Poe uses some unpleasant emotional words in that part, such as insufferable gloom, unrelieved, half-pleasurable, sternest, and desolate of terrible. Those words are depressing and seem to persuade the readers to escape from the house immediately. The “vacant eye-like windows” also makes the house look scary. De Vore, A.D. (2012) states that:
The setting is greatly influential in Gothic novels. It not only evokes the atmosphere of horror and dread, but also portrays the deterioration of its world. The decaying, ruined scenery implies that at one time there was a thriving world. At one time the abbey, castle, or landscape was something treasured and appreciated. Now, all that lasts is the decaying shell of a once thriving dwelling.
Thirdly, the story goes on with the dead of Madeline. The narrator feels terrified that he decides to take Madeline’s body to the temporary tomb in a basement with Roderick. His anxiety becomes larger as he cannot sleep. When he is reading Mad Trist, Roderick and the narrator hear mysterious noises. Roderick is afraid that they may have buried Madeline alive. The narrator is very shocked that Madeline makes her appearance, looking ghostly and horrific. She is able to walk towards Roderick and wants to attack him, but she falls on him and dies afterwards. Roderick dies too as soon as realizing that he has buried his sister alive. Moreover, there is a supernatural occurrence. It can be seen that the house seems to react to the death of the Usher family by collapsing itself.
In short, the narrator experiences some terror elements. The story truly has Gothic elements. Skarda and Jaffe (1981: 181) give examples on Gothic elements like isolation and madness. It is shown by the description of Roderick’s mansion that looks spooky in the beginning, the Usher’s physical appearances, the premature burial of Madeline, the narrator’s inability to sleep, the mysterious sound in the house, reappearance of Madeline coming back from the dead, and the house that is breaking apart.
Just like “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Raven” also starts with a quite creepy image, a dreary midnight. A man, the unnamed narrator, sits and reads a book alone. He hopes to forget about Lenore, his lost love. While he sits, he hears a knocking on the door. He gets up to answer but finds nothing. Harris (2013) argues that one of the Gothic elements is an atmosphere of mystery and suspense. He says that the work is built by a threatening feeling, a fear