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I need to know the significance and symbolism of the tarn in The Fall of the House of Usher. Please help! Thank you.


-- Anonymous, October 22, 2000



The term tarn is of Scandinavian origin and dates from about the 14th century. Webster defines it as a small steep-banked lake or pool. However, in the story, I believe Poes intent was to use the word to convey a vision of a haunting swampiness together with a sense of foreboding, dread and general disintegration.

Certainly, as the narrator approaches the Usher estate, his description is nothing less than dismal and Poe allows the narrator to establish this perception from the very beginning. Just what, specifically, the tarn is symbolic of escapes me other than perhaps the omnipotence of decay and death that ultimately, everything must return to that from which it came. Frankly, I think the tendency to search for allegory in each and every element of his tales and poems is a common mistake. Poe was known to use specific words for no other reason than effect. That he always seemed to pick the right word seems a fair measure of his brilliance.


-- Anonymous, October 23, 2000

It was all about madness really. It was a journey that had to be made and than an escape at the end as the house of usher "falls". Poe used alot of doubling in this story. All the characters, if you look closely, seem to all look alot alike. And the reason for not giving a description of the narrator is because he does indeed look like Roderick and Madaline. The fact about it is that Madeline was mad, and she knew it, Roderick was becoming insane and did not want to reach reality so he denied it, which killed him at the end. The house was a wasteland--dead and sterile--nothing could live on it.

-- Anonymous, October 25, 2000

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