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

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”.


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

  1. I really like how you had different theories about Madeline. In my blog I talked mostly about how Madeline was a supernatural part of Roderick. She rarely interacts with Roderick or the narrator throughout the story which may help show that she isn’t real and just a symbol for Roderick’s fear. I also like how you had multiple theories for Madeline. Having more than one theory allows people to think and come to different conclusions of their own. The photos you chose were a great representation of the story and it’s characters.


  2. Great connection to Game of Thrones. I think you are right that Poe’s story of potential sibling incest and rivalry echoes in narrative plots even today!


  3. frombrittany says:

    I really enjoyed your post, to think that Madeline was only supernatural and not a real character is an extremely interesting take on Poes story. I just assumed we didn’t hear much about Madeline because the story is told in the first person but now that I think about it would make since for her to only be a figment of Roderick’s imagination. I’ve never seen the Game of Thrones but now that you correlated the two I guess I should give it a gander lol.


  4. I thoroughly enjoyed your post and I think all of your theories are very relevant to determining what exactly happened to Madeleine. In addition, your connection between Game of Thrones and The Fall of the House of Usher is spot on. Both the sibling’s personal conflicts has led them to a life of despair.

    Liked by 1 person

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