Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

Poe’s parents, David and Elizabeth Poe, were both professional actors. Two of their friends, Noble Luke Usher and Harriet L’Estrange Usher, a husband and wife team, founded the Montreal Theatre in 1808, and appeared on stage with the Poes in the early 1800s. Edgar Allan Poe undoubtedly named his story about the ‘House of Usher’ – and its fall – after them. But why would Poe name a horror story after some friends of his parents? The answer may be linked to Poe’s preoccupation with premature death. The Ushers both died young, in 1814, in their twenties. Poe’s mother had also died young, aged 24, in 1811 (as Poe’s wife was to die young, also aged 24, in 1847). In the story, the twins Roderick and Madeline Usher die young, and their ‘House’ - their family line - is destroyed, the physical building dramatically collapsing into a brooding tarn (a mountain lake) at the end of the tale.

It seems likely that the choice of name in the title reflected Poe’s horror at something he knew well: the extinction of young life and the pain of being left behind.

No comments: