Cadence in “The Fall of the House of Usher”

FullSizeRenderThe description of sound leads the reader through Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” just as seamlessly as the plot does. The narrator describes sounds throughout the story, which dramatizes the narrative and allows the reader to fully immerse herself in it. In the exposition, the narrator describes a “soundless day” (1). Since the story has only just begun, it is fitting that silence is the first sound (or lack thereof) to be heard. This is symbolized by the rest at the beginning of the plot map, for there is a difference between the silence before a piece has begun and silence written into the music. This silence has a literary purpose: it allows the reader to visualize the setting without distraction. By forcing the reader to focus solely on the image of the house, Poe underscores the importance of sound as a plot device.

Each subsequent mention of sound or music is more dramatic than the last. For example, the inciting incident happens when Roderick Usher greets the narrator (3). Then the drama really starts. The sound of the story moves the reader from important discussion (5) to impassioned singing (6-7), foreshadowing the end of the story. Between narration (17), Madeline’s resurrection (16-19), Roderick’s “shrieking” (18), and the return to silence shortly after the fall of the house, the reader is guided through the story as if it were a piece of music. Sound is crucial to the setting, plot, and experience of reading “The Fall of the House of Usher”.


Works Cited

Poe, Edgar Allan. “Fall of the House of Usher.” 1839. Web. 21 Jan. 2016. PDF.

I pledge on my honor that this work is entirely my own, that its entire composition was done in compliance with the Davidson College Honor Code, and that I am unaware of any violations of the Honor Code by other students. – Isabelle

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