The gothic context of the tale The function of setting in the tale The structural unity of the tale
Started in US about 1840 Steeply pitched roofs Pointed arch windows Elaborate trim around roof edges High dormers Lancet windows
Poe’s “house of Usher” looks more like a medieval castle or English cathedral in Gothic style
Emphasis on setting Exterior: landscape Interior: houses Castle-like architecture Characters are brooding, secretive Buried family secrets Long history of family tied to place
Roderick An artist figure Nervous agitation Lives in dark upstairs apartment Cadaverous complexion “want of moral energy”
Roderick’s mental condition is affected by his environment “He was enchanted by certain superstitious impressions in regard to the dwelling which he tenanted... An effect which the physique of the gray walls and turrets, and of the dim tarn into which they all looked down, had, at length, brought about upon the morale of his existence.”
Here, “physique” refers to something physical And “morale” refers to something mental Roderick is all mind in a weak body He represents in one way the life of the isolated artist Paintings Reading Guitar playing
Madeleine Illness has debilitated her All descriptions focus on the body “gradual wasting away of the person” Roderick and the narrator screw down the lid of her coffin She returns from the tomb to reclaim her twin brother, her “double” “the huge antique panels…threw back”
Poe addresses the dual and conflicted nature of the Self Mind and body are at war with each other in each of us We try to repress one side and live without it But we cannot achieve a harmonious existence in this way
The “house of Usher” has two meanings 1. The physical dwelling 2. The family line, or lineage – “the entire family lay in the direct line of descent”
The house is also a type of character in the story Like the family, it is of “an excessive antiquity” The landscape is overgrown and ragged On the front down the middle is “a barely perceptible fissure” going in “a zigzag direction”
Atmosphere: The climate or feeling in a literary work. The choice of setting, objects, details, images, and words all contribute towards creating a specific mood and atmosphere. For example, an author may create an atmosphere of mystery around a character or setting.
Tone: The author’s attitude, stated or implied, toward a subject. Some possible attitudes are pessimism, optimism, earnestness, seriousness, bitterness, humorous, and joyful. An author’s tone can be revealed through choice of words (diction) and details.
Turn to page 160 in your textbook and re-read the first two paragraphs of the short story, paying special attention to the tone. Write two paragraphs on how Poe’s diction and tone in the exposition create a certain type of atmosphere and mood. Be sure to include at least two specific quotations that illustrate your thesis
Your 1 st Paragraph should discuss diction and tone. Your 2 nd Paragraph should discuss how Poe’s diction and tone establish the atmosphere and mood of the story.