What Is Going On Here?

For Halloween I submit the penultimate paragraph of the “Fall of the House of Usher,” by Edgar Allen Poe. I was once laughed at by an entire seminar of snotty Americanists as well as their professor for suggesting that in this passage Maddie Usher was dying while giving still-birth to a corpse. Presumably this would have been her and spermless brother Roderick’s child. It’s a well established reading that there’s incest in the story, but is there a partial birth? At the time, I took resistance to my reading as evidence that many people who study “American Literature” can’t actually read. By now I’m less locked into a view on the subject. Tell me what you people think Poe is up to here.

As if in the superhuman energy of his utterance there had been found the potency of a spell—the huge antique panels to which the speaker pointed threw slowly back, upon the instant, their ponderous and ebony jaws. It was the work of the rushing gust—but then without those doors there did stand the lofty and enshrouded figure of the lady Madeline of Usher. There was blood upon her white robes, and the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her emaciated frame. For a moment she remained trembling and reeling to and fro upon the threshold—then, with a low, moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the person of her brother, and in her violent and now final death-agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse, and a victim to the terrors he had anticipated.


5 Responses to “What Is Going On Here?”

  1. Dat Says:

    i’m sure it wasn’t the birth part that they were opposed to…it makes perfect sense to me…it must be the late trimester abortion they felt uncomfortable about, and that one, I must admit is a stretch….but evidence of stillbirth is smeared all over the text….anyhoo…i’m getting hungry…gotta go…gonna get breakfast.

  2. Mi Kyung Says:

    hmm, never read it that way. but i can see why you did. i’m still inclined to think that there was no unholy get here. but your reading ramps up the horror. which is good.

  3. darknessatnoon Says:

    Dat, I’m not really sure how you can eat after that comment. Miky, Maybe readings of this thing have to get progressively more horrific over time. Otherwise, how can this be horrifying in the age of Saw and torture-porn. Either way, horror comes off as really cheesy to me (though I am easily frightened by horror movies and am a total sucker). I do have an entry on the way about the Driver’s Seat starring Liz Taylor. I know of no film more horrific.

  4. comparatist Says:

    Your reading shows that you equate horror with the snatching jaws of women’s snatches…

  5. darknessatnoon Says:


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