Edgar Allan Poe The Fall of the House of Usher
In this short essay we would like to briefly describe two short stories form Edgar Allan Poe and Sherwood Anderson. First we will write something about the content and then a short analysis of each essay will follow. We don’t expect this essay to discuss this topic definitely. We will not be able to catch all the details in these two short stories. The aim of this essay is only to try to catch the main meaning and some formal aspects in them.
We will start with the story of Edgar Allan Poe - The fall of the house of Usher. The story is describing a man who is going on a horse to visit his old friend Roderick Usher, who is ill. The man received a letter in which was written about the illness of his old friend from his childhood. The letter was written in a way, that only a personal response was a good response to this letter. When he first saw the house he could feel something not good in the air. He wasn’t feeling comfortable in the house. Not only because of the house was very old, but also because of some strange atmosphere in it. When the man saw Roderick after such a long time, he couldn’t recognize him in the first moment. The years and the illness changed him very much. It was a mental illness. Lady Madeline, the sister of Roderick Usher, is also sick. It happened that she died. They buried her in the family crypt in the house. From this moment on the illness of Roderick Usher went worse. He was in really bad mental state. One night there was a strong storm. Roderick came to his friend’s room. The man wanted to calm him so he suggested he was going to read to Roderick one of his favorite romances. But it was a book Mad Trist, which wasn’t romance at all. It was a kind of scaring book. As the man was reading he could hear some sounds. It seemed that it was happening what was read. Roderick was looking on big camber door to the room. He said to the man they had buried Madeline alive, and that he knew it. Suddenly, the door was opened and Madeline came in. There was blood upon her white robe. The man escaped out from the house. As he was looking on the house from outside, the house of Usher fell down and Roderick and Madeline died in the house. That is a short content of the first story. Now we would like to write some remarks to the formal side of the story. The narrator of the story is the friend of Roderick Usher.
The atmosphere of the whole story is very dark It is expressed also by the description of the weather (dull, dark and soundless autumn, clouds hung oppressively low…). The respective scenes of the story are connected together, one scene is prepared by the previous. The relation between the house and the family is very strong. The ancestors of Roderick and Madeline are present in every stone of the house. What can be said about the house could be said about the family as well. When the last members of the family die the house falls into the ruins. The end of the Ushers family is also the end of their house. The story is producing very dark and melancholic mood.
The second story, we want to mention and describe, is called I want to know why. Sherwood Anderson wrote it. Because of the lack of the place the content of this story will be discussed only very briefly here. Some nice details of this story are not going to be described here. That’s why we recommend to read this story in the anthology mentioned in the note at the end of the essay. This story is about four boys from Beckersville in Kentucky. They liked horse races very much. And they wanted to see some important race far from their town. So they decided to run away from home. When they came into Saratoga, where the race took place, some nigger gave them something to eat and showed them some place to sleep. The boy, who is telling this, story expressed a good attitude to this “nigger” cook. All the boys, but especially this boy-narrator has a very good relation to the horses. He wanted to be a jockey, but he grew too big. He can feel what the horse is thinking and he gets some special felling, when watching the horse that is going to win the race. So he is able to predict the winner of the race. At that race in Saratoga the boy knows the horse that is going to win, too. When he meets the trainer of the horse, they both knew that the horse is going to win. The boy found this out when they, he and the trainer, looked at each other. The boy was feeling some special sympathy toward this trainer, because also he knew that the horse is going to win. And the horse really won. In the evening this boy wants to be near to this trainer who looks so great to him. But he sees the trainer drunk, going to a public house and cheating and kissing with a “bad woman”. His illusions and his ideal are destroyed. The boys are going home. But this boy never tells to anybody about his disappointment. Sherwood Andreson chose a first-person narration for this story. The narrator is the maim character in the story, a fifteen years old boy.
Anderson shows the contrast between the innocent ideals of a young person and the reality. There is hard disappointment from the contact of these illusions and the reality described. We thing there’s also another important aspect described in the story. It’s the relation towards the black people. It is expressed by the attitude of the boy towards the “niggers.” It is apparently positive.
We have tried to describe two short stories. Somebody might not like the description in this essay, how it was done. We wanted here to express our view on discussed problem, and we know that it is subjective. Who won’t like our point of view should read these stories in the anthology and built own opinion. We believe we reached our aim of this essay, to make some remarks on the stories and to express our way of understanding these stories.
- Antologie americké literatury, SPN, Praha 1985
(discussed stories are on the pages 33-42 and 148-155 in the Antologie americké literatury).