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Roderick Usher is ill. He’s restless, uneasy, hyper-sensitive to light, sound, smells, and taste. Our unnamed narrator journeys to the House of Usher to cheer his friend Roderick, but neither narrator nor reader will find much comfort there. The manor house is bleak and gloomy beyond compare and its residents—Roderick and his twin sister Madeline—seem perpetually bathed in sorrow and despair. Roderick, in fact, believes the house, with its ancient stonework and strangely-arranged gardens, to be a sentient force unto itself. And when Madeline dies and Roderick insists on interring her body in the house’s vault before her burial, and an odd anxiety comes over Roderick and his guest in the days that follow, and Roderick’s paintings and books appear to come to life, it seems the House of Usher may indeed have something final to say before its doomed fall. Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is one of literature’s greatest and spookiest storytellers—the enduring popularity of his narrative poem “The Raven” and his short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” certainly prove that. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is his other big hit, a classic little tale of a classic haunted house that, in Poe’s hands, becomes something much more—something innately unsettling and irresistible all at once. In fact, reading all three of Poe’s bests in row, from the mocking raven’s call to the mysterious thump-thump under the floorboards to the eerie House of Usher, is undoubtedly the best way to work yourself into a truly glorious literary scare.
posted Mar 5, 2010 at 12:17PM
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