The Philosophy Of Composition By Edgar Allan Poe Summary

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Edgar Allan Poe is well known for his dark and mysterious short stories, which in retrospect shaped the whole genre. In his article The Philosophy of Composition from 1846, Poe presented his concept of how any writing process should proceed through describing the technique he used to compose his poem The Raven. This essay first outlines the main points of his theory and subsequently analyses in how far Poe stuck to these guidelines himself while writing the short story The Fall of the House of Usher. As the framework conditions as well as the detailedness fit to Poe’s theory, the essay argues that he did plan the story according to his propositions. In The Philosophy of Composition Poe states that a good piece of literature can be read in…show more content…
In Usher, he wants to shock the reader through mixing reality with supernatural elements. To achieve this effect, he uses the doppelganger-motif and links the twins to the building. As mentioned before, Roderick and Madeline both appear rather dead than alive, which is reflected in the appearance of the mansion with the big fissure in the façade. Furthermore, the “eye-like windows” (ibid. 3) can be interpreted as the lifeless eyes of Roderick or the “cataleptic gaze” of Madeline (Yamina 36). Also, the doppelganger-motif is a reference to the two siblings as such because they are twins who look alike (ibid. 36). An additional example for this doubling can be found in the middle of the story, where Roderick paints a picture of a vault, which resembles the one they later place Madeline in (Poe, Usher 12). Lastly, another important feature of the scenery is the lake that mirrors the building. Thus, the image of it is doubled, which symbolizes a second reality and hence everything unusual connected to the house (Yamina 36). The moment both siblings die, the mansion collapses straight into the tarn, and consequently, neither real image nor the reflection of it are perceptible anymore. Altogether, all of these examples help to achieve the desired effect the author chose for his story.
In conclusion, this essay shows that The Fall of the House of Usher is written according to the guidelines Poe proposes in his Philosophy of Composition. The general set up, including aspects like setting, tone and theme align with his theory as well as the construction of the plot, whose outcome is already summed up in the title. Based on specific examples, the essay shows that all details serve to increase the effect of horror, conveyed through the mixture of reality and the
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