Allan Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher", Incipit: commentary
This brief but informative essay is a literary commentary on the incipit of The Fall of the House of Usher, written by Edgar Allan Poe. It focuses on the atmosphere created by this descriptive passage.
[...] The Fall of the House of Usher is no exception. Besides at the time when the short story was published, it was taxed to be Germanic”, which refers to the genre called Gothic. The excerpt I have to comment on is the twenty-one-line incipit of this first person narrative. This passage can be defined as a description the description of the House of Usher and its surroundings and furthermore the effects they have upon the narrator. What I will try to demonstrate in my study is that this descriptive passage aims at setting the tone of the short story. [...]
[...] As regards narratology, the narrator is to use Gerard Genette’s terminology (Figures III) homodiegetic and extradiegetic since the unnamed narrator is not a character of the later metanarrative. Thus the narrator’s characterisation is made only by his own speech and his actions. From the description the narrator makes, he shows that he is rationalist. He effectively wants to rationalise things. Moreover, he behaves like a pedagogue since he justifies himself or at least the terms he employs: know not how it was but with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. [...]
[...] This gothic place has, we have seen previously, a great effect on the narrator who keeps on trying to rationalise things that happen around him. However, the character of the narrator will be jeopardized by the events that will later take place in the story. [...]
[...] By way of conclusion, it can be said that the incipit of The Fall of the House of Usher is here to set the tone of the short story. Indeed this gothic description composed of gloomy elements aims at creating an atmosphere of terror which is at the heart of this incipit as will be the case in the rest of the story when the unnamed narrator is in the very house of Usher with his host, namely Roderick Usher who is, as indicates his name, inherently linked with the house. [...]