This handout begins not with a discussion of plot or characters of this story, but with an examination of setting since the Usher mansion becomes a major “character” and is central to an understanding of its protagonist Roderick Usher. “The Haunted Palace,” the poem incorporated into the plot of the story, is explicated. Next the themes of madness and death, particularly the dread of being buried alive, are analyzed, including Poe’s use of catalepsy. The handout ends with a discussion of the story’s symbolism, including an examination of the symbolic names, Roderick, Usher, and Madeline.
My handout, which has blanks that your students can fill in, is suitable for a homework assignment or as an in-class activity. An answer key is provided on a separate page at the end of the handout.
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.