In the ‘fall of the house of usher,’ Edgar Allan Poe introduces the term “hypochondriac” to describe Roderick, who is a “hypochondriac”. As we shall see, this word can be interpreted as foreshadowing for Roderick’s actions, in that he will kill his sister for fear of contracting a disease. The fact that Poe refers to Roderick’s hypochondria is important because he uses this term twice. Therefore, readers can see that the connection between the two terms is clear.
The second example is Lady Madeline, a character that is constructed in parallel to Roderick’s house and environment. The narrator glances at her face whenever she passes through the room. Though she is identical to her sibling, she is also cloaked in white and adorned with blood. By the time the narrator reaches the house, Lady Madeline is an idea, a surreal figure.
Throughout the novel, the reader becomes aware of the sickening House’s effect on the individual’s imagination. The narrator, who is a pseudonym, suffers from ellipsis of spirits and a slave to the House. The various relationships in the text show the unhealthiness of the characters. For instance, Roderick’s relationship with Madeline reflects his insanity, but his sister’s grave remains buried alive.
The image that accompanies this passage is also symbolic of Roderick’s madness. We see a satanic-style verse, which is the result of his paranoia. And the blood-red moon may represent the hellish atmosphere. In this case, the moon is symbolic of a fallen angel, or the devil himself. Similarly, the satanic-style verse makes us feel that the narrator is merely a puppet.
Ultimately, the passage shows that Roderick’s madness only manifests itself after he has killed his sister. His guilt, therefore, is the root of his madness, as his plot to hide his sister’s body is a calculated murder. However, the novel’s plot does not necessarily reveal the identity of the murderer. Rather, it demonstrates that Roderick has a split consciousness.
Interestingly, Roderick only becomes a madman after he has killed his sister. In fact, the passage is not even the first passage to show Roderick’s madness. The guilt is a symptom of his ill health. The reader can’t be sure if Roderick is suffering from a mental illness, but the guilt of his sister is the root of his madness.
The narrator’s obsession with Madeleine is a central theme of this passage. It is not an entirely unreasonable choice to have a love interest, but it would be inappropriate. Nevertheless, it is a strong metaphor for the human condition. If the narrator has an obsessive need to meet the perfect woman, the writer is attempting to convey that desire through the words.