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The Fall of the House of Usher

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Madeline rises from her tomb in an illustration by Harry Clarke

"The Fall of the House of Usher" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. It was first published in 1839. A movie based on the story was released in 1960.

Story[edit | edit source]

Roderick and Madeline Usher are brother and sister, and the last of an evil family. They live in a crumbling mansion surrounded by a swamp. Roderick is a nervous hypochondriac.

Roderick is visited by an old friend. He tells this friend that Madeline has recently died and is lying in the family vault beneath the house before permanent burial.

On a stormy night, Roderick and his friend hear Madeline rising from the vault. Roderick tells his friend that Madeline had deathlike spells and that he entombed her alive when she fell into one of these spells. He wants to end the evil of the Usher line. The door opens. Madeline falls upon her brother. The two die, and the house falls in ruins as the friend escapes.

Publication[edit | edit source]

The story was first published in the September 1839 issue of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. It was slightly revised in 1840 for Poe's Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.

"The Haunted Palace" is a poem within the story. This poem had been published separately in the April 1839 issue of the Baltimore Museum magazine.

Adaptations[edit | edit source]

The story has been adapted to the movies and to operas. The best known movie adaptation is probably Roger Corman's 1960 The Fall of the House of Usher starring Vincent Price.

Claude Debussy began an opera based on the story, but it was unfinished at his death. Other operatic adaptations include those by Philip Glass and Peter Hammill.


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