The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales

Author: Edgar Allan Poe

Published By:
Signet Classics

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            I fell in love with the works of Edgar Allan Poe in Junior High School when my teacher had us read the entire poem and memorize the first stanza of The Raven.  Read in dim lighting, this sorrowful poem about a manís descent into madness at the loss of the woman he loved can inspire chills in the reader.  Since then, I have watched several movies inspired by Poeís work and have actually read quite a few of his stories and poems.  The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales, published by Signet Classics, is a compilation of his more macabre tales.

            Containing fifteen stories, including The Fall of the House of Usher, this compilation represents some of Edgar Allan Poeís most spooky tales.  Some of the stories included are long, but most are short stories spanning only a few pages.  Despite the length, it is usually the shorter tales that are the most creepy.  My favorite of these shorter, yet creepier tales is The Black Cat about a man whose drunken state enables him to commit a terrible atrocity against what was once his favorite pet and how that deceased pet enacts a sound revenge.

            Other scary tales include The Fall of the House of Usher in which the dead come back to life; The Pit and the Pendulum, a story of manipulative torture of the mind and soul; The Tell-Tale Heart in which a manís guilt at the murder of a defenseless elder causes him to hear the dead manís heartbeat until he confesses to his deed; The Mask of the Red Death in which a disease takes on a more human form; The Cask of Amontillado, a tale of murder; The Man That Was Used Up, a tale about a soldier whose heroics have left him somewhat less than what he once was, and more.

            In reading these tales, you discover what a master of horror Edgar Allan Poe really was.  Not a single tale is overly bloody and there isnít a single slasher tale in the lot.  Poe scares his readers by painting dark and morbid pictures in the readerís eye.  He turns the readersí own fears against them, describing dark and dank locales, howling winds, dangerous and often offensive locations and more.  He paints the darkest pictures and then adds an even darker event, such as murder or illness and some horrible wrongdoing to complete the tale. 

            One will often find themselves wondering what was going on in the mind of the author as he penned his tales.  We know that the life of Edgar Allan Poe was not a happy one and that his decent into alcoholism and the loss of the love of his life had a great deal to do with the morose subject matter of his most macabre works.  However, in some tales, there seems to be a sinister undertone that one must wonder at - could alcohol and depression really have created such a tale, or was Poeís mind actually that twisted to create such a perfectly horrific tale so descriptively as to actually allow the reader to see the scene in his mindís eye.  Pretty scary stuff when you think about it.

            The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales is the perfect book to read during the Halloween season.  It contains just the right mood - chilling and horrific - just the type of thing youíre looking for to scare you right into the spirit of things.


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