The Fall of the House of Usher Summary

In the gloomy autumn day, in complete silence the narrator rides to the mansion of Usher family. He has received a letter from the friend of his childhood and youth, Roderick Usher. For many years they did not write a single word to each other, but in that letter Usher called the narrator his best friend, told him about his unbearable physical illness and mental disorder and pleaded the narrator to come to his mansion and relieve the pain.

The Usher dynasty was always distinguished by their refined feelings, perfect taste and artistic hobbies, but now it was close to oblivion. The only two alive family members lived in a mansion saturated with the spirit of decay. The garden around turned into the dead trunks, withered trees and black and gloomy lake surrounded by them. The walls of the mansion were covered with lichen but still the masonry remained strong except one barely noticeable crack that began under the roof itself and ran all over the facade.

The interior of the mansion feels oppressive and almost medieval. The servant escorts the narrator to the room where Roderick is waiting for him. The owner of the house rises from his couch and warmly greets the narrator. The disease put an imprint of deathly pallor on his face, sharpened all the features and gave the look a strange, strained expression.

Roderick’s tone was full of nervous excitement. The voice sounded weak and uncertain, or it acquired an echo of ecstasy. Usher said that he was struck by a hereditary disease of their kind, which manifests itself through the aggravation of all feelings and unnatural sensations. Bright colors, loud sounds and light are physically painful to him. The disease also causes attacks of unbearable and unreasonable horror. Roderick believes that ancient legends are true and some unknown and unnamed evil force inhabits this mansion.

He is also very afraid of the future and loneliness. His sister, Lady Madeline is also ill, her limbs becoming numb and her breath stopping for a while. None of the doctors can figure out what disease is tormenting her so much, but they are sure that the days of the Roderick’s sister are numbered.

While Lord Usher describes his sister, Madeline herself appears in the far end of the hall and goes away without noticing the narrator. It is almost painful to see the eerily entranced woman.
The narrator spends next days together with Roderick trying to entertain him and return to him the will to live. He examines Roderick’s mysterious paintings and is amazed at the ways he uses simple forms and objects to transfer the deep sense to the picture. They also try to play guitar, but the improvisations of Lord Usher resembled the mourning funerary hymns. Roderick sings the song “The Haunted Palace” to the narrator and then tells that he believes that plants and everything surrounding him there is alive and his very fate is connected to this mansion.

But Roderick likes reading most of all. He and narrator spend a lot of time in the library, reading books from it, with predominated plots of romance and mystery.

One evening Usher tells the narrator that his sister died and he intends to keep her body in the dungeon for two weeks before burying it in the cemetery. Together with the narrator they transfer the coffin to a cramped cellar, which is studded inside with copper sheets. 

The narrator sees the face of deceased Lady Madeline and understands that she and Roderick are twins. There is an eerie smile on her face and her cheeks still have a faint blush on them. The narrator and Roderick screw the lid of the coffin and lock the iron door of the dungeon securely.

The next days the narrator is surprised by the change in Usher's behavior. The owner of the mansion abandons everything and just wanders aimlessly around the house. It seems that he is burdened by some terrible secret, which he is afraid to say. The narrator also starts to feel unhealthy agitation he has no reasons for.

On the night of the seventh or eighth day after the death of Lady Madeline a violent thunderstorm began. The narrator lies on his bed unable to fell asleep. Suddenly, Lord Usher rushes into the room pale as a dead man. He leads the narrator to the window and opens it. The narrator is amazed at the harsh, terrible beauty of the hurricane that broke out.

To calm the excited Usher and himself, the narrator offers to read. He grabs a novel, “The Mad Trist” and  starts reading it aloud. The novel tells about the knight named Ethelred who breaks into a hermit’s hut to find a shelter in the storm but appears in the palace of gold guarded by dragon.

While reading about Ethelred breaking the door of the hut, the narrator hears similar sounds somewhere in mansion. He doesn’t mind and continues, but when he reads about the piercing shriek of dying dragon killed by Ethelred, he hears the real scream coming from somewhere below. Filled with horror the narrator turns to Usher. He turns his chair to the door, looking at it, his lips trembling.

The narrator explains the sound as a hallucination caused by overexcitement and continues reading. The book describes how, after killing the dragon, a shattered shield fell to the hero's feet. But after the narrator reads these lines, he hears a clear ringing of metal from the depths of the house. Usher looks at the narrator, looking like he is entranced, and says that he heard all these sounds for some days and knows their reason: they buried Lady Madeline alive!

His mumbling changes to a desperate cry: "I tell you, she's here, outside the door!"

A powerful gust of wind opens the door… Behind it stands Lady Madeline, wrapped in a shroud, with traces of a heavy struggle on the emaciated body. With a groan she collapses on her brother's chest. Together they fall to the floor - both already lifeless.

The narrator flees from Ushers' house in horror. The last thing he sees is a bright flash that split the house along the crack. The walls crumble and the dark waters of the lake devour the mansion of Ushers.