Evocation of Fear in the Fall of House of Usher

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Katie Valdesuso November 30, 2010 ENGL 439 Prof. Allan R. Life The Evocation of Terror in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher In his Philosophy of Composition, Edgar Allan Poe informs us that he begins writing with “the consideration of an effect” (430). Most of Poe’s poetry and fiction exemplifies his assertion that a preconceived effect upon a reader is undoubtedly fundamental to his creative work. Poe’s tales of terror in particular epitomize the supremacy of his craft in that each component of his narrative strategy functions to achieve the final effect of generating unmitigated terror in his readers. Focusing primarily on The Fall of the House of Usher, I argue that Poe employs a preconceived narrative…show more content…
It is significant to note how certain words like “melancholy,” “dreary,” “oppressively,” and “dull, dark, and soundless” abet the fortification of this tenebrous environment that evokes such terror within the narrator. Likewise, the imagery present in the narrator’s description of “the atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn, a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaded-hued,” contributes to the ominous mood generated by these systematically chosen words (92). This mood remains throughout the story and offers a throbbing sense of anticipation and lingering fear. Another example of how Poe’s imagery achieves this effect occurs when the narrator briefly spies Madeline in the beginning of the story: “The lady Madeline passed slowly through the remote portion of the apartment and, without having noticed my presence, disappeared. A sensation of stupor oppressed me, and my eyes followed her retreating steps” (96). Images like these contribute to the perception

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