46 pages 1 hour read

Edgar Allan Poe

The Fall of the House of Usher

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1839

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Incest, Madness, and Moral Consequences

At the beginning of the story, the narrator notes the artistic persuasion, or as he puts it, “a peculiar sensibility of temperament,” that has run through the Usher family line for generations (5). They were prolific artists, musicians, and philanthropists. The narrator attributes this strong family characteristic to the fact that the Usher clan has only had one line of descendants. He credits the “deficiency […] of collateral issue” with the undeviating nature of the Usher personality and with the close association of the House of Usher with its family (5).

Readers can assume that the brothers and sisters of the Usher family became the parents of the next generation and so forth. The narrator notes that this singular family line has lasted through the “long lapse of centuries,” implying that the Usher issue of today are the descendants of generations of interbreeding (5).

Inbreeding has long been associated with the aristocracy. European royal families believed that they were superior to others and did not want individuals of a lower social class marrying into their family and creating lesser offspring. By breeding within the same gene pool for generations, royal families created and passed on genetic anomalies.