Analysis of “The Fall of the House of Usher”

It all started when I was informed about this paper I was trying to think of a movie I have watched a hundred times and loved. I thought I have seen Saving Private Ryan tons of times and love it but I decided to ask my media major friends what would be a good film that people hardly know. They had hundred of ideas but this one stuck out because I like horror movies.So one night we had a big film fest and watched it with a whole lot of other movies. I enjoyed and now I will go over the film of the Fall of the House of Usher. While watching the film and analyzing and the film, I noticed I was looking to primarily the supernatural horror is possessed. Supernatural horror has and still plays a major role in film and in literature. H.P. Lovecraft mentions “psychologist will dispute and their admitted truth must establish for all time genuineness and dignity of the weirdly horrible tale as a literary form,” which I regarded this to Poe. Poe is notorious for his literary style being on the Gothic horror themed side, making anything he writes creepy and unnerving. The Fall of the House of Usher is one piece of literary work that is constantly looked at by not only film-makers, but also with students, and many artist. The Fall of The House of Usher is engaging and captivating for many individuals around. For me, looking at Poe, it was an eye opening film and watching something that I’ve just started like and but helps me gain a better understanding what Poe was actually portraying in his work.

In Robert Giordano’s words (pg 1) Poe’s short story, The Fall of the House of Usher, Poe tells a story about a person, just the narrator and his friend Roderick, who is dying of an illness. Poe’s description of the house, emphasis the gothic nature of the story and his imagery of the sounds in the house show a depressing mood. The crack in the house at the beginning shows how unstable the living is and foreshadows the destruction of the house at the end. We find out later that Roderick’s sister, Madeline, has a more severe illness that is causing her to die. I believe that it’s more of mental illness that drives Madeline insane causing everyone to believe that she is sick. Madeline soon dies due to insanity from the lack of oxygen from being buried alive by her brother. The house makes sounds while the narrator tells the story and Roderick believes that Madeline is actually alive and making these sounds. Madeline bursts through the door trying to murder her own brother from the mental illness. In shock, both Roderick and Madeline collapse to the floor to their death. The narrator flees the house and then the house fragments into two. Edgar Allan Poe uses imagery and description to convey the gothic emotion of his life and the lives around him in this story.

When I first started to learn about Poe and his works, I didn’t quite understand the storyline until now that I’ve gained a better understanding . The supernatural and horror elements of the horror genre is what is focused most on, in not only film but in also in literature. The horror genre produces a lot of elements and techniques that help someone understand and ‘live’ within the text. From the color scheme, to the sounds and even to the details that go into the literature work to make it to another form of art.

Supernatural horror is unlike other genres out there. In spite of the gothic tradition in the supernatural horror literature was designed to inspire fear. Opening our minds to the supernatural genre opens the psychological process that becomes a coping mechanism. It becomes our escape. We create a world of fantasy that becomes a ‘safe haven’ in some instances but also creates a dangerous and dark world. Sometimes people fall under the category of the dark world and take things a little to far. It’s a mechanism that most children use because they don’t know what’s actually creating the creepy sounds in their room late at night. This mechanism Poe studied to create such graphic details and horrific stories and yet, it worked for him.

Gothic traditions in films help depict a more realistic journey for the human minds. It’s almost as if the reader and/or the viewer is part of the story. I feel like the Gothic style in film is probably one of the most important styles in writing because it combines many other genre elements such as romance, superstition or supernatural, and so forth. The Fall of The House of Usher holds many of these elements and is among Poe’s most regarded pieces of literature but the film is just as good.

Studying the human mind allows for the human connection to be deeper. It also allows for something to seem more real when being studied. It’s easier to produce work that taps into the emotion of the human mind. Poe studied the human mind in madness and insanity. As studying The Fall of The House of Usher, I came to the realization that Roderick is actually insane and also makes his sister Madeline go insane by making her believe that the house is actually full of demons. The decor and color scheme all throughout the house made it seem that way as well because the reds and blacks gave it an uneasy feeling and could make someone go insane.

The Fall of The House of Usher is complexly written with themes identifying horror, identity, gothic and the supernatural. Poe utilises Gothic traditions within the colorscheme, the elements within the supernatural and also in the setting. He also uses metaphors to serve as objects within the story. These metaphors allow us to create a image in our head to make a clearer sense of the story.

The Usher house was very much alive by absorbing Rodericks mental and physical health. All throughout the film, it was easily noted that the house seemed alive. The house knew there was an guest and felt threatened by that guest, so in return, the house caused problems for said guest. Anytime the guest would wonder about the house, the house would fall apart trying to murder him that way the house could finish off the Ushers. Poe foreshadowed the paradox of Roderick’s fear very early in the story by having fear of fear itself. Meaning Roderick was not scared of death itself rather he was scared of fear which, so happens, to lead to his death when Madeline ‘returns from the dead’ and scares him to death right before her actual death. This relates to when I talked about the candles. The last candle lit represents the fall of the house and the Usher fate.

The theme, however, is subtle. Most people who watch films sometimes can’t grasp what the theme is. In The Fall of the House of Usher, the color palette used is very restricted. Apart from an ominous red light, and the red blood on the clothes of Usher’s sister at her final appearance, whites, greys, and blacks, all symbolic of a lack of life and health. Each color in the film was utilized and represented something. For the most part the colors represented the darker horror, supernatural theme of the story. There was only one color that did not represent the horror or supernatural feel. I did feel the color served as an important part of the story. The color is blue. Blue represented Phillip, it represented peace, purity, positivity and kindness.

In, In Point : “sound effects, as I said before, can be used to heightened a mood by creating a soundscape that accents another layer of meaning to the images on the screen.” Pitch, tempo, and volume may be altered to indicate how the the narrator expects the audience to respond to a given noise. For instance, high-pitched sounds, the screams from Madeline, create a sense of anxiety and terror, while low-pitched sounds, including the sound of the scratching of Madeline’s nails against the coffin, can be used to create a sense of mystery.

Perhaps the most interesting use of sound in a movie is the very absence of it: silence. At key points of The Fall of the House of Usher, the director may chose silence in much the same way that they would use a freeze frame. Both tend to arrest the audience’s attention to highlight some action or change in story direction. Silence can be used to build up a scene’s intensity foreshadow. The sound and music in the background made the house feel creepier. There is this one specific sound I can’t get out of my head because I believe it represented the house falling apart and something bad was soon about to happen.

I mentioned the use of metaphors in the text earlier in the essay. In Elements of Cinema (pg. 1-4), “metaphors are considered to be common in The Fall of the House of Usher.” One of the biggest metaphors that struck out to me was the usage of color. Red was a key component within the text. It was used for a lot. Roderick wore red to represent himself as one half of the twins, red also represents the negativity attacks from the house upon Phillip, the anger, the agony, and so forth. The one that struck out to me most was when Roderick said “one candle left to burn before the darkness comes.” He said this right after Madeline appears to be dead. When he said this I thought that this was a metaphor on his life.

In Kashiss, Truth Film, another major element, if not part of the symbol, is the execution of the symbol, the way it is presented in the film. Sometimes in clear view and sometimes it’s hard to find. In The Fall of the House of Usher, candles were present all the time, all over the house. If you show it in a random context it means nothing. The candle’s were all throughout the house and they were red for the most part. Roderick lit one of the candles when he said “one candle left to burn before the darkness comes,” the more I think about it the more I believe that the candles represented the Usher family, life and insanity. Roderick had buried his sister alive and knew that very soon insanity would consume Madeline and end up leading to her actual death. I know that Roderick was insane for doing that, however the last candle was a representation of his life. He knew that he would be the last Usher of the house to die. Shortly after lighting the last candle, Madeline, corrupted by insanity, attacked him and ultimately lead to his death. The house at the same town was surrounded by darkness and was consumed by the earth. It was as if the Usher house never existed after it was consumed.

Poe tend to work in the dark. He wanted to get to know his surroundings to understand the the horror supernatural feels. I keep thinking about a supernatural occurrence that happened several times throughout the film. The portraits on the walls of Rodericks family not only were unnerving feeling but also made the supernatural and insanity in Roderick real. Just looking at the portraits would make someone insane. They were painted red for the most part however, around the eyes it was black creating a dark shadow and an unnerving feeling.

According Moriah Mayhew (pg 1), H.P. Lovecraft identified and understood Poe differently than what most would normally understand. Lovecraft simply dug deeper and found true meaning behind Poe’s artistic style. Lovecraft believed that Poe’s work was one of the first to bring in the realism of storytelling in a systematic expression. Poe made his pieces of literature so real. Not just The Fall of The House of Usher but also in The Raven. Poe became a very respected author for his writings being different from other creations by other well respected authors however, other authors are taught to do so whereas Poe was insane himself and created pieces of work depicted in his mind. Lovecraft state “ More particular qualities appear to be derived from the psychology of Poe himself, who certainly possessed much of the depression, sensitiveness, mad aspiration, loneliness, and extravagant freakishness which he attributes to his haughty and solitary victims of Fate,” represents his artistic literature pieces. He sorta gave insight to the world that not many know of.

In conclusion, looking at H.P. Lovecraft’s “Supernatural Horror in Literature” allowed for me to understand Poe in a way I thought I could never understand. Poe was an insane man who created great pieces of literature using his darker personality in his choices on his style of writing. This worked for him because it not only made him a well rounded author but also made him a well respected author. I think Poe studying the psychological view of the human minds allowed for him to be a great writer and a great influencer to the eye.