Philosophy of transcendence is at the center of “the Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar
Allan Poe. There are dark overtones and rich details that flows in the short story, what can be
termed as an invitation of the reader into an unpleasant dream of death and transformation. The
transformation tone is set right at the opening line, by the “autumn of the year” setting. Autumn,
as it is known, is a period of change and transition, which has often been viewed as in between
summer (life) and winter (death). The short story presents a state of downhill decomposition
based on transformation from life to death, as seen when the story gets in its final stages. The
author inversely uses transcendence of destruction by defining transformation from human flesh
to the ultimate journey of destruction and decay.
There has been an evolution of transcendence, especially in the 1800s. During this period,
it was clear that the religious views of the world highlight some flaws in our religious beliefs
(Webster) . With the growth of science and ultimately industrial revolution, which has often been
referred as the age of reason, some philosophers and writers formed a group known as
“Transcendentalism” which believed in the unity of all things (Voloshin) . The group was focused
on reimaging the top-down analysis of the hierarchical transcendent model. It has been explained
that at the start of the Nineteenth century, the impact of the scientific revolution and the spread of
the empiricist psychology made it nearly impossible to view the universes in a hierarchal
Emerson, among other writers, has abandoned the idea gates of heaven are opened by
reaching a certain static dogma or model. According to Emerson argues for the beauty and value
of the common, making his retain transcendence in the higher use of nature. Poe in his short
story creates a situation where he distances himself from the transcendence in the classical
structures, as he decides to change the direction of transcendence downwards.
The destructive or downward transcendence originates from the decline and
decomposition. A return to the setting of the short story, there is sensational information that has
established an atmosphere tense with adjectives through his description of the day to be “dull,
dark, and soundless… [with] clouds [hanging] oppressively low.” Readers attention is drawn by
the narrator to the bleakness of the areas he intends to enter. This technique is used by Poe to
make an emphasis on the main issue of decay. Using the evening set up that is dreariness of such
a time of the day, Poe makes an immediate connection of the house with the dynasty of Usher
through the statement, “there was… an unredeemed dreariness of thought… that so unnerved me
in the contemplation of the House of Usher.”
When undertaking an interpretation of the setting and what brings the connection to the
family of Usher based on the destructive transcendence eyes, clarity is brought to the fact that
makes use of his sense, which creates an immersive threatening world. The author’s use of
horror can be said to be inspired by the nature of the ancient family of the house, and its current
standing. The Usher’s house is left unmaintained, leaving the landscape in a bad state, which
threatens a place. The state of the house and the landscape concerning the depiction of the
wealthy establishment in the classical times shows that the Ushers are in a downward journey as
fate seems to have turned against them. This creates negatives feelings on the narrator.
In a critique of the short story, Beiganowski makes a claim regarding the imaging and the
verbal expression; he is of the view that such create demon, thus overtaking the reasons for
narration (Bieganowski) . It is thought that the narrator would have warm emotions from the visit
of friend from childhood, but the result becomes the opposite of what is expected. These feelings
that the narrator experience would create a notion in the mind of a reader than the path is that of
a destructive transcendence. Additionally, the narrator emphasis the point of destructive
transcendence by his claim “as boys, we had been even intimate associates, yet I knew little of
my friends” (Poe 100). It shows that the once a solid relationship of friends has deteriorated
making the narrator have negative perception of Roderick Usher, who was once his friend.
There is a presentation by the author of the competing views of Madeleine Usher, who he
considered to engaging an upward transcendence against Roderick Usher who is on the
downward path. Although Madeleine is mention minimally while alive, even as she moves
upwards, she is presented to fit in the bracket of the decay because of her disease that is
considered to have slowly procured her death. At no point does the narrator speaks to her,
creating a perception that she was unknown both spiritual and in position. The narrator lack
interest in her regardless of the state of being of Roderick Usher. Maybe, it is because of her
slow nature and sickness. Madeleine is presented a woman undergoing pain and suffering,
although she is on an upward transcendence. For Roderick, he is a person in continuous
suffering, and he is about to give up on life as his suffering is too much to bear.
After seeing Poe’s different destructive approach to transcendence, one is given a sense
of wholeness. It is clear that even as the Estate of the Ushers comes crumbling down, the siblings
maintain the bond and embrace each other. It can also be seen Poe is obsessed with afterlife, as
he is torn between material world and spirituality. Roderick can also be argued about making
accusations against the narrator, in particular regarding his sanity, owing to the narrator's view of
the downward turn of events. Poe through “Usher” makes construction of a story similar with
examples of destructive transcendence based on a general rise, fall, and destruction of the
rational mind, thus highlighting the old systems of class structures, and the family units in the
Bieganowski, Ronald. The Self-Consuming Narrator in Poe’s “Ligeia” and “Usher”. New
York: Duke University Press, 1988. Document.
Voloshin, Berverly. "Transcendence Downward: An essay on “Usher” and “Ligeia”." Modern
Language Studies (2014): 3(18)23-67. Document.
Webster, Merriam. Transcendentalism.” Merriam Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature.
Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1995. Document.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Classic American Literature, Vol. 1. David
Hennessy. August 2012: 99-113.