2/19: “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe (Part II)

After carefully reading the tale of “The Fall of the House of Usher”, we cannot help but wonder, what exactly happened to Madeline Usher? After suffering from an illness which the narrator describes as “cataleptical”, Madeline appears to die and is (temporarily) entombed within the walls of the Usher family mansion by the narrator and her brother Roderick. Seven nights later, Madeline makes a terrifying return, confronting the men while still wrapped in her bloodstained cerements. Madeline’s frightening return causes the fall of the House of Usher in three significant ways: the mansion collapses shortly after the narrator’s quick escape; Roderick, the last male bearing the family name, apparently dies in his sister’s ghastly embrace; and the story itself comes to its final close. Or does it as one may wonder? We may not know what happened to Madeline but there are several different directions one can consider depending on their interpretation of Madeline.

There is one theory that she doesn’t fully exist from the start, but is some sort of supernatural shade, a spiritual doppelganger half of Roderick. This can explain why the narrator rarely sees her and why she doesn’t acknowledge or interact with him during those times. Since she probably wasn’t fully human in the first place, that is why she can come back from the dead.

Another theory one can get from Madeline’s behavior from the tale is that she and Roderick are two halves of the same person. It is believed that the twins have some type of connection or telepathy and that they can feel what the other is feeling. Since Roderick was always paranoid about being sick, he caused Madeline to get sick. This connection between them can lead them to death. So since Roderick was still alive, Madeline was too. So for one of them to die, they both have to die. Naturally, a person cannot live divided into two pieces, much as the House of Usher cannot stand with that crack running down the middle.

One may believe that that the Madeline who returns from the dead is the physical manifestation of Roderick’s worst fears. When Roderick is foreshadowing his death, he says, “…the period will sooner or later arrive when I must abandon life and reason together, in some struggle with the grim phantasm, FEAR.” Could “FEAR” mean Madeline? Notice that Madeline doesn’t appear at the door until Roderick claims that she is standing there. It could just been all in Roderick’s head for all we know.

How I imagine Madeline would look like in the story. By Angelo Sterminatore https://www.flickr.com

How I imagine Madeline would look like in the story.
By Angelo Sterminatore
https://www.flickr.com

When I was reading the “The Fall of the House of Usher”, I realized that they are the Lannisters! For those that watches “Game of Thrones” know who the Lannisters are. They are one of the Great Houses of Westeros (a nation in the show), one of its richest and most powerful families and oldest dynasties. The Lannisters are such a powerful house but extreme personal conflict and grievances eventually lead to the fall of their house just like how it happened to the Ushers. In the family of Lannisters, there are twins; one is a man, Jaime Lannister and a woman, Cersei Lannister. Jaime and Cersei have such a very close brother and sister bond and are known for their incestuous relationship, therefore mirroring the hinted undertone of incest in Poe’s story.

Jaime and Cersei Lannister from "Game of Thrones". http://wiki.westeros.pl/

Jaime and Cersei Lannister from “Game of Thrones”.
http://wiki.westeros.pl/

2/12: “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe

Another one of Edgar Allan Poe’s tales that did not fail to chill the readers! In the story, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, Poe presents the history of the end of a notable and illustrious family. As usual with Poe’s poems and tales, setting and mood contributed greatly in this tale. Poe’s descriptions of the house itself as well as the people living in the house thereof invoke in the reader a feeling of gloom and terror. It can be seen by Poe’s description of the house and how it connects to the inhabitants, Roderick and Madeline Usher, and their traits.

Unknown Copyright

Unknown Copyright : Just a cool drawing I came across that perfectly summarizes the tale!

Poe uses several descriptive words in his perspective of the house. My first impression of the house came from a direct observation from the unnamed narrator. The narrator states “…with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit.” As the narrator continues to describe the house, he uses several similarly ghastly adjectives. The gloom experienced by the narrator is not limited to merely the house itself. The vegetation that surrounded the house is described as “a few rank sedges and upon a few white trunks of decayed tress.” He emphasizes the details of the house and its surroundings by restating the descriptions reflected in a “black and lurid tarn.” The narrator also points out that the house seems to be in a poor and damaged condition. He also described the windows as “vacant and eye-like.” The narrator basically almost personifies the house and gives the status of character to the house. Lastly, another unique feature of the house that narrator described for us is “a barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in zigzag direction, until it becomes lost in the sullen waters of the tarn.” It is pretty interesting to me on how much the narrator focuses on the details of the house.

One of the Ushers we are introduced is Roderick. When the narrator meets and greets him, he was appalled by Roderick’s appearance. Such descriptions would be “a cadaverousness of complexion”, “lips somewhat thin and very pallid”, and “an eye large, liquid, and luminous beyond comparison.” From looking at these descriptions, it seems that Roderick was once a very healthy person. The narrator also sees Madeline and gives a description of her. When she moves around the house, without noticing the narrator, she is regarded with an utter “astonishment not unmingled with dread.” He also gives us a report of her condition, which included a gradual wasting away of the women.

After reading the tale, it can be seen that there are similarities between the building and the family living in it. Poe draws a comparison between the two by emphasizing the length of both. The house is described as an “excessive antiquity.” Similarly, Poe states that the Usher family is “time-honored” one, which implies a long heritage. He compares the eye-like mirror windows to Roderick’s eye. The decayed white trees reflect Roderick’s ashen appearance. Also the weariness of stones surrounding the house foreshadows Madeline’s destruction. One of the Poe’s comparisons that stroked me the most was the climax of the story. The presumed dead Madeline reappears and her appearance frightened her brother so much that he died from the terror. The narrator runs away from the scene but as he is leaving, he takes another look at the house. The “once barely-discernible fissure” has widened. This led the house to split and come crumbling down. So the final comparison is drawn between the house and the family. Just as the familial lineage of the Usher’s has ended with the deaths of Roderick and Madeline, the fissure’s widening destroyed the ancestral home of the Ushers. Poe ends the tale with “the fragments of the House of Usher” referring not only to the house but also the family itself.

This is what I believed Roderick Usher would look like. This is closest thing to what the narrator described of when he met Roderick after a long time. He was appalled by how much Roderick looks weak and almost inhuman with his sullen facial and bodily features.

2/9: “Ligeia” by Edgar Allan Poe

I have once read “Ligeia” from The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe. Then I have read it again for this class. Both times, after reading this tale, it gave me the chills. Edgar Allan Poe never fails to consistently tingle the spine. While two centuries have passed since his tortured life and twisted pen have graced our world, his fame had endured and his collection of tales and poems reminds us why.

“I cannot, for my soul, remember how, when, or even precisely where, I first became acquainted with the Lady Ligeia.” – Edgar Allan Poe

The story of “Ligeia” is about an unknown narrator and his wife Ligeia, who is a beautiful, mysterious, and intelligent character. Ligeia dies, and she mutters passages from an poem titled “The Conqueror Worm” in her last breaths. Later, the narrator remarries, this time with a woman named Rowena who is not nearly as beautiful, mysterious or intelligent as Ligeia as the narrator describes. Rowena is the stereotypical woman, a classical example of what women were supposed to be during the era. Strangely, Rowena also dies, and the narrator, who we learn is an opium addict, supervises the body overnight. The story ends with Rowena coming back from the dead, transformed into Ligeia as the narrator believed the human was.

Poe makes the narrator’s first wife, Ligeia, have such remarkable beauty. For the narrator, Ligeia’s beauty serves as a source of love and endearment. As the narrator of the story puts it “. . . the character of my beloved . . . made their way into my heart by paces so steadily and stealthily progressive that they have been unnoticed and unknown Ligeia’s singular yet placid cast of beauty is in sharp contrast to Rowena’s fair-haired and blue-eyed classical beauty. Poe repeatedly points out the perfection of Ligeia’s beauty because it does not follow to the typical definition of beauty. Ligeia’s features were not of that regular mould which we have been falsely taught to worship in the classical labors of the heathen. Poe undoubtedly sees flaws in the narrator’s second wife because she fits the character too easily. Perhaps the most extreme example of Poe’s rejection of the ordinary and embracing of the strange can be seen in certain passages describing Ligeia’s mysterious characteristics. He describes the narrator’s beautiful wife as one would describe a ghost: She came and departed as a shadow. He describes her eyes as unreal and superhuman because of their large size: far larger than the ordinary eyes of our own race. Ironically, at times Ligeia even frightens the narrator with her grotesque appearance. However, throughout the whole story, these odd appearance traits are objects of trance and musing for the narrator, and he points this out repeatedly. Poe rejects classical and typical values of the norms and welcomes and embrace the supernatural through the vivid and clear descriptions of Ligeia’s unusual and spooky beauty.

http://irenhorrors.deviantart.com/art/Ligeia-III-435680757

Illustration by Ksenia Svincova (IrenHorrors) http://irenhorrors.deviantart.com

Above is a picture of how I imagine Ligeia (woman on the right) would look like from the narrator’s descriptions. Ligeia’s appearance is ghost-like, with the pale face, dark hair, and shadowy body. Next to her is Rowena who looks like how every women is normally expected to look like. From looking at this picture, it shows off Ligeia’s dominance as she stands over Rowena. She has more of an eerie and spooky look that attracted the narrator so much unlike Rowena’s simplistic looks.

2/5: “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving

When I saw that we will be reading The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, the first thing that came into my head is Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. Johnny Depp played as Ichabod Crane and I remember going crazy about that because I absolutely love Johnny Depp and consider him as one of my favorite actors!

Anyway…enough about Johnny Depp! The Legend of Sleepy Hollow represents Irving’s comic masterpiece, a ghostly tale about things that flips over in the night. The specter in question here is the mysterious Headless Horseman. It was believed that he was a Hessian trooper who lost his head in a battle. Each night he roams the countryside looking for it. The strange hero in this tale is Ichabod Crane, a traveling schoolmaster.

“He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together.”

Irving opens his tale by painting us a picture of the lush and charming Hudson Valley region of Sleepy Hallow near Tarry Town that holds the tale of the Hessian trooper’s ghost that supposedly roams near the churchyard. He introduces us Ichabad, a poor Connecticut Yankee who is very interested in marrying the wealthy and flirtatious Katrina Van Tassel who is the daughter of the richest man in the area. Ichabod plans to bring himself into her life and winning her hand in marriage. He arranges to teach her the singings of the psalms, letting his get the permission to visit Katrina on a regular basis. Not only is only interested in her but he also wants to acquire her hereditary wealth and sell it off. It turns out that Ichabod was not the only one in love with Katrina but Brom Bones, one of the many men that want Katrina for him. Brom Bones was known for his rowdy personality, love of pranks, and great skill at horseback riding. The two men despise each other. Ichabod was invited to a party at the Van Tassels. Katrina ends up disappointing him and dumped him and Ichabod leaves the party depressed and humiliated. On his way home, he meets the terrifying Headless Horsemen, who scared Ichabod. Next day, Ichabod’s horse return but there is no sign of Ichabod. The town looks for him but never heard of him from again in Sleepy Hallow. Some believe that Brom Bones pulled off a prank, getting Katrina all for himself but others believe that he was taken by the Headless Horsemen.

So where did Ichabod disappeared to? I believe it has to do with Brom Bones. He utilized Ichabod’s fear of the supernatural to best him and finally drive his rival off for good. After all, it was stated that neither could get the clear upper hand for Katrina’s affections. This allows the reader to assume and believe that Ichabod, despite his lack of physical prowess (when compared to Brom Bones) was able to at least successfully defend himself in some aspect from Brom Bones’ pranks and attempted attacks. This leads me to believe that Brom Bones disguised himself as the Headless Horseman in order to finally drive Ichabod off. He did not kill him, as it is stated in Irving’s story that an old farmer believed he’s seen Ichabod in another town later on.

"John Quidor - Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane - Smithsonian" by John Quidor

“John Quidor – Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane – Smithsonian” by John Quidor

Ichabod was riding back home with his horse, disappointed and in bewilderment.

How could this happen? I thought there was chance, he thought.

As he was riding back, feeling lonely as ever and thought the day could not get any worse, he hears someone riding a horse behind him. He continues riding his horse but starts to pick up the speed as the person behind him tries to approach him quickly in a very suspicious manner.

Who could it be? Ichabod questioned.

Ichabod turns around and to his surprise, it’s the Headless Horseman!

This can’t be…How is this possible?! Ichabod gasped.

He hurries his horse to run faster but was too frightened and has fallen of the horse. The next day, he was not found as his horse returned to town empty handed.

This picture illustrates the story of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It accurately portrays the Gothic atmosphere and set the readers of the mood of the story. With the use of dark shades, it conveys the idea of hopelessness as experienced by the character involved.

2/2: Finished with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter!

At last, I have finished reading Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter! I thoroughly enjoyed the reading and certainly believe that it was a fun read indeed.  Seth Grahame-Smith clearly went the distance to create a plausible melding of vampire mayhem and history. It was well researched and the history was on target.  This book does a great job of integrating history and fiction to make a believable story. We were able to get an insight to Abraham Lincoln and the times he lived in. We can see throughout the story how this remarkable man was shaped by loses, by meeting certain people, by events but most of by love for “his” country. I liked how Seth Grahame-Smith picked Abraham Lincoln as the Buffy the Vampire Slayer of the 1800’s and how it perfectly well it worked!

As I was reading this book, I honestly thought that Lincoln will achieve his goal of getting rid of every vampire there is in the country which he almost did by driving most of them back to Europe and live and die peacefully like a regular human being. Even after hearing of his mother’s last dying wish was for him to live, I still didn’t expect him to actually live live. After he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, I thought that was the end of it. Instead, he becomes one of the greatest enemies he detests! How ironic? Instead of finally resting at peace, Lincoln was turned into a vampire by Henry Sturges. I believe that it is both a curse and a welcome. It is curse because now he has to “live in death” which he been refusing that to any of his love ones to go through every time Henry gave him that offer. He won’t be able to finally rest in peace that he been longing to feel especially when he went through those suicidal escapades throughout his years of vampire hunting. On the other hand, he does get to enjoy the life of immortality and perhaps even live on his mother’s wishes to live. He can continue his passion for hunting vampires and fight for the civil rights.

I believe that Seth Grahame-Smith did a great job at the end of the novel. I really like how he takes us to a time where there’s still a constant struggle of racism and having civil rights. Lincoln and Henry had come to help finish the work that has begun a century before right to when Martin Luther King, Jr. is giving his “I Have a Dream” speech. They have come to the rescue and free this country from injustice. Lincoln will be able to long live his life as his mother has always wished for him while fighting for the good of his country.

I think Abraham Lincoln at the time of the March on Washington will look the same as before but stronger. He’ll probably have his signature trench coat and his famous axe. His face will be written with full of history that he have gone through but also much wiser he gained from hunting. He will now know what is to be done to eliminate vampires and diminish the injustice for all!