“The Fall of the House of Usher” is one of Poe’s most popular short stories. Moreover, analyzing this story provides a basis for understanding Poe’s gothicism and his literary theories. As in all of Poe’s short stories, “The Fall of the House of Usher” concentrates on a “single effect”-in this case, the degeneration and decay of the Usher house and family. In the story’s opening, for example, the narrator comments upon the “insufferable gloom” that pervades his being as he notices the “few rank sedges,” the “white trunks of decayed trees,” the unruffled luster of the “black and lurid tarn,” and the house’s vacant “eye-like windows.” Once inside, the details increase: the “antique and tattered” furniture and the other furnishings that “failed to give any vitality to the scene.”
In addition, the narrator emphasizes Roderick Usher’s wildly fluctuating physical and mental states and Madeline Usher’s “settled apathy” and gradual wasting away. Not only do these details highlight the mystery on which the tale develops, but they also foreshadow the story’s denouement when Roderick, Madeline, and the dark house itself all crash into the dark waters of the tarn. Indeed, with its unity of character, setting, tone, and action, “The Fall of the House of Usher” epitomizes Poe’s literary skills and techniques.