The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Fall of the House of Usher, The

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Fall of the House of Usher, The
Edition of 1920. See also The Fall of the House of Usher on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, The one of the most famous of the prose tales of Edgar Allan Poe, is to be grouped among the author's stories of morbid psychology. The strange obsession which afflicts the chief character may be described as the fear of fear. The ‘Fall of the House of Usher’ conforms admirably to Poe's dictum that every word in a short story should tend toward a preconceived effect. The sense of gloom and depression produced in the opening sentence is maintained and if anything deepened to the close. The scene is laid “Out of space — out of time,” yet it gives a thrilling impression of reality. The story also illustrates the author's skill in preparing for the end, both by minor details which explain later happenings, and by more elusive methods. Thus, the momentary repulsion which the visitor feels on meeting the physician is connected with the decision regarding the temporary entombment of Madeline, narrated pages later; and the picture painted by Usher inevitably suggests, though in no very tangible way, the vault in which the coffin is placed. The poem, ‘The Haunted Palace,’ recited by the chief character, is an allegory of a ruined mind. No story of Poe's shows better handling of atmosphere, and it it justly ranked as one of the most admirable of its class. It was first published in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine in 1839, and was revised for the collection of Poe's tales issued in 1845.

William B. Cairns.