The Fall of the House of Usher

I feel slightly treacherous writing this. I love Edgar Allen Poe; and this was one of his most famous stories; but I hate it. I’m not sure if it’s a case of familiarity breeding contempt, but it bores the pants off me and I find the prose tedious in the extreme. So I forced myself to re-read it to see if I could spot what my problem with it was.

The plot, such as it is, is minimal, which may be why it’s been adapted a few times with varying degrees of success – there’s plenty of scope for inventive cinematography or staging. An unnamed man visits his old schoolfriend and his sister, who both live in their ancestral home which is excessively ancient but not yet ruinous. Both the friend (Roderick Usher) and his sister (Madeline) have been unwell and during the course of the tale, Madeline dies. Her corpse is interred in the family vault and Roderick lapses into distraught grief. The climax of the story is the revelation that Madeline was, in fact, buried alive and the House itself falls down during a terrific thunderstorm and takes both the Ushers with it.

And that’s it. Not a lot goes on for an awful lot of words, and I simply find it tedious. Poe’s prose can tend to the purple if he’s not careful – Ligeia is a stinker for this, but I love it regardless – but here he tends to padding, it seems to me. There are a lot of words and not a lot of story. Still, as it’s one of Poe’s most popular tales, I must be in the minority, but I’m okay with that. It’s an important story – I just don’t like it.


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