I didn’t intend to repeat an artist already, but this song seemed too perfect to not use for these particular readings. The Haunting by Anberlin may be more about a relationship, but it also has a lot of eerie descriptions, as well as a spooky tone to match. The first verse describes an old, seemingly haunted house which of course reminded me of the House of Usher. When listening to this song, I felt a lot of the same feelings as I did reading the story, which is the main reason I chose it for this post.
So far, this has been my favorite reading assignment because I love Poe. I like the darker tones in his stories, and to me they are easier to read and enjoy than some of the others.
Of course, both stories are loaded with Gothic elements and imagery, but what I like most is how the House of Usher seems like a character of its own, especially with the “vacant eye-like windows.” The house also seems to really effect the characters’ state of mind. The narrator seems intrigued but fine before entering the house, but his friend clearly has psychological problems. As the story progresses, the narrator also begins battling with his mind. A key moment for me was when the narrator becomes overwhelmed with horror in the night.
“Overpowered by an intense sentiment of horror, unaccountable yet unendurable, i threw on my clothes with haste, (for I felt that I should sleep no more during the night,) and endeavored to arouse myself from the pitiful condition into which I had fallen, by pacing rapidly to and fro through the apartment,” (2716).
This is when the house begins to take control over his mind. In a way, this reminded me of The Scarlet Letter when Dimmesdale is affected by his sin. Similarly, Usher is physically affected by the house. He is described as having “an evidently restrained hysteria in his whole demeanor.” His physical appearance only gets worse as the story continues. Right at the end, before Usher’s dead sister appears to them, it seems like Usher is being possessed. That description, more so than the image of the sister, is what was most creepy to me.
To expand on some of the Gothic elements, the supernatural is extremely present, but I was most intrigued by the nightmarish obsession element that comes up for Usher and odd outbursts having to do with “hearing it” again and again throughout the story. And of course, there’s the sister who escapes her coffin. One could also argue that Usher is trapped by his psychological problems caused by the house.
“The Tell-Tale Heart” had similar themes. The eye comes up again, but in a more prominent way. And again, I was reminded of The Scarlet Letter as the beating heart haunted the narrator until he was forced to confess because it was making him so crazy. There is also this line that made me think of Dimmesdale:
“Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me,” (2728).
Just as Dimmesdale had the scarlet A etched into his skin over his chest, the narrator in this story can feel this need to cut out the eye in his very chest. By saying that it “wells” makes the feeling seem mystical or supernatural, similar to the scarlet A.
One difference I noticed between this and “The Fall of the House of Usher” was the writing style. “The Tell-Tale Heart” seemed to have a smoother, more modern-sounding tone. It’s not quite as full of detailed, long descriptions. It gets straight into the plot and moves quickly. The supernatural, enchanted elements still remained, but it read different.
In both stories, I also noted several instances of fantastical or magical words used which gave the stories a magical tone. The characters even seem to “feel” things that don’t seem possible or real.