The first lines of The Fall of the House of Usher, “During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year,” instantly grab attention, as they suggest an important event will occur. The reader is immediately intrigued by what this event may be and how it might develop throughout the story. The writer also uses vivid imagery to convey that, as the day is dull and dark, something unusual will happen. The sentence “a sickly ray of sunlight” reflects this as it suggests that there isn’t much light and therefore the event won’t be noticed by many people.
The pronoun “it” in line three gives a sense of mystery to the story as it begins to outline what the event might be; however, this is never explicitly revealed. The description at lines four and five emphasize how different Roderick’s thoughts and feelings are compared to those who remain outside: he has an eccentric view of life and does not perceive things in the same manner as others do. The line “…all his sorrows were blending into one” demonstrates how Roderick misperceives and takes in things, and suggests that he has a singular view of the world.
The sentence also implies that Roderick’s sorrows are increasing. The pronoun “that” directly refers to “his sorrows”, which makes it clear what they are without having to state them explicitly. The repetition of words such as “painful” at lines 6-7 help emphasize the sadness that Roderick is feeling, while the use of alliteration (“the autumnal air begins to awaken”) sounds interesting because of its placement within the sentence. The line “among the tall bracken” shows how isolated Roderick feels, suggesting both his sensitivity and how he doesn’t want to connect with anyone else.
The last three lines emphasise how desperate Roderick is to be with his love in the afterlife, and how he wants them to meet again. The repetition of “her” at line 14 suggests that Roderick sees himself as one with his love, suggesting their connection. The final two sentences in this paragraph show how obsessed Roderick is with being with his love in death. The last sentence demonstrates how lonely he feels when he states “and I only wait for you—for you”, which emphasizes that even when they are both gone there will be nobody else.
The opening paragraph ends on a mysterious note which helps draw the reader into the story by asking questions about what will happen next based upon the imagery used throughout it. Poe chooses to write The Fall of the House of Usher in the Gothic genre, which was famous between 1760 and 1840. The Gothic literature typically includes dark themes including death, decay, madness and guilt. The setting that Poe uses is very much suited to this type of literature as it creates an atmosphere that reflects Roderick’s mental state.
The description at lines one to three serve little purpose when read but help create a “dull” atmosphere for the story when taken together with the rest of the story; when they are considered together they act like a prelude. The sentence “A sickly ray of sunlight”. This shows how Roderick views the world differently compared to other people in his society who cannot see anything unusual about this day. The word ‘sickly’ suggests that there isn’t enough light to do anything with, which creates an ominous mood for the story.
The next sentence also has little relevance to what is happening, but helps create a grey and dull day in line with Roderick’s outlook on life. The pronoun ‘it’ gives the reader a sense of mystery because it suggests that there is going to be something strange about this day without revealing what that might be. The use of alliteration throughout the paragraph such as “dull”, “dreary” and “soundless” help create a rhythmic effect which reflects on Roderick’s mental state; he is unable to make sense of his surroundings or understand them correctly.
The sentences beginning at lines four and five about how Roderick views himself compared to those around him emphasise his loneliness and detachment from those around him; he does not feel as though he belongs. The line “I alone it possesses…” suggests that Roderick feels as though the place is full of life and potential, but because he has such a warped worldview this is not what people see it as.
The sentence “It was mine” shows how Roderick feels about himself which contrasts with his surroundings; they appear changed however he remains the same. The final two sentences in this paragraph demonstrate how isolated and detached Roderick seems to be from the world, and shows that nobody else shares his view on anything even if little has happened so far. The first section of The Fall of the House of Usher explains Roderick’s feelings of isolation and detachment from the world around him.
The reader is also introduced to Roderick’s mental state, which becomes important later on in the story. The use of repetition throughout this section creates a sense of continuity that helps the reader get inside Roderick’s head – it allows them to explore his experiences through his words. Furthermore, when they are combined with other language techniques used in The Fall of House of Usher they help to create an atmosphere within the story that matches what is happening in it.
The opening paragraphs tell us little about what is actually going on but give plenty away about how Roderick feels about himself in comparison to others around him. This demonstrates how The Fall of House of Usher uses imagery rather than events to build up the mood of the story. The language techniques are used to help amplify the feelings that Roderick is experiencing. The reader can easily recognise this shift in mood which occurs throughout The Fall of House Usher due to the way it is written – imagery and parallelism.
The next section looks at how Poe uses these two literary devices specifically, especially in relation to the dark theme Gothic literature which fits The Fall of House of Usher perfectly. Poe begins The Fall of House of Usher with a shift between scenes even though there has been no change in time or location – “During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day…” This creates an ominous mood for The Fall of House of Usher straight away; it makes it clear that something out of the ordinary is going to happen.
The first sentence of the The Fall of House of Usher also has little relevance to what is happening – “During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn…” The appropriateness of this lacklustre weather for Roderick’s mental state helps create a sense within The Fall of House of Usher that something bad is going to occur soon; it gives an indication about how he might see things which helps increase tension as well as foreshadowing what might happen later on.