What century was Fall of House of Usher in?

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what is it

-- Anonymous, October 20, 2000


Dear Amanda,

Your question relates to the chronological situation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher":

As I recall, I do not believe that Poe ever specified either time or place in this particular tale. One can reasonably speculate that the tale takes place in the past (one can assume that it is not to be understood as taking place during Poe's time, i.e. the 1st half of the 19th Century), perhaps in medieval times, but I believe that there is no concrete evidence which inscribes the events to a particular century (though I may have overlooked some textual detail which reveals one).

In any case, it seems a rather academic task to endeavour to pinpoint the text to a specific century, given the nature of said text. If you would like to offer any suggestions yourself, I would be more than happy to receive them, but, as I said, it is probably best to interpret or understand the story as occuring during the Middle Ages (which was a common as a period setting among the Romantics).

-- Anonymous, October 20, 2000


Scotts basic observation that Poe specified neither time or place for the setting of this tale is, without qualification, correct. In fact, even after dozens of readings of the story, there appears to be a decided lack of clues and, therefore, would lead one to believe that this was Poes intent or that this was done by design. This is not at all unusual for Poe and is a repeating element in many of his stories.

I also tend to believe that the intent was that the story was to have taken place in the past. That is to say, the past as it would have related to Poes time. Beyond this, the time frame and location, by Poes design, is left to the reader to decide and would be based on the readers literary exposure, knowledge or his life experiences. In my view this is an example of Poes allowing the reader to adopt a frame of reference that is familiar to his experiences or knowledge and is consistent with Poes literary principles.

Scott has suggested the medieval period but, quite rightly, goes on to explain that there is a lack of support for this proposition. Personally, my time and place would be the late 18th century in England, perhaps around the countryside of Coventry. Frankly, I too find no supporting evidence for this location or century but it does make the story more palatable to me in some obscure way. Regardless, it is of minimal importance to the story line.


-- Anonymous, October 20, 2000

As with many romances the "feel" is of the past generation, perhaps schoolboy memories of England. Evidence aplenty in language and culture, especially in names and books menyioned(although several either are inventions of Poe or unknown to us). Mention of "remote feudal times" etc places this far from America or the Middle Ages. Some biographers and commentators have researched those names, suggestive of some contemporary interest to the narrator(Fuseli, Von Weber), the philosohical speculators(Watson, Dr. Percival, Swedenborg, etc.). Try looking up their music, art or books yourself.

For me the mood is definitely that of the British Romantics, the Shelley, Sir walter Scott, Byron and Coleridge times. Interest in the extravagant medieval, darker musings combined with modern mysticism. Amplifies the spirit of centuries of decay held in suspension awaiting some grand denouement of collapse. As Poe would say "not beyond all conjecture."

-- Anonymous, May 05, 2001

Why don't you try reading the story and find out?

-- Anonymous, November 28, 2003

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