Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer in the first half of the 19th century famous for scaring the heck out of his readers. He is the master of dismemberment, underground crypts, murder, suffocation, ghosts, the living dead, haunted mansions, blood, and all the other lovely features of your favorite horror movies. He’s been immensely popular in France, and many scholars attribute this popularity to the gorgeous translations of his work by the poet Baudelaire, who rendered Poe poetic instead of melodramatic (overly dramatic).
Poe remains generally popular, if not lauded in academia, for both his short stories and his poetry. Both are featured in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” his most famous short story (the poem is buried inside it). “Usher” was first published in 1839 in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and is pretty much typical Poe material: it tells the story of a sick brother and sister who… well, let’s not give the ending away. Just be forewarned: there will be blood.
“Usher” has been read and re-read by critic after critic, and there are several interesting “theories” to explain the major action of the tale. Most have approached the tale from a psychological viewpoint, which will make more sense to you after you read the text and check out our “Character Analyses.” There’s also been some criticism regarding the story’s typical Poe-ness; some feel that it is too formulaic and relies on stock Poe characters that can be found in any number of his stories. Decide for yourself.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” shows us that fear can be some pretty powerful stuff. Not only can it paralyze or control us, but it can actually manifest the outcomes that we dread. Examples, you demand? Gladly.