Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

“The Fall of the House Usher”: Poe’s perverted perspective on the “Maimed King”

Forrest C. Helvie


The themes of medieval literature had a profound effect on the works that would follow in later generations regardless of the writer’s recognition of this influence, and one can see the way Poe leaves traces of the popular medieval motif of the “Maimed King” in his short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher. ” This thematic device, which predates the medieval period, gained prominence in the tales of King Arthur and the Grail Quest. Although there is no clear indication that Poe intentionally set out to create a gothic rendition of this traditional theme, that does not discount the possibility of “Usher” having been conditioned in some respect by this medieval notion. Through implementing a close reading of the story and comparing it to a framework of this conception of the “Maimed King,” this paper points out a number of striking similarities between the two, as well as demonstrates the far-reaching influence of medievalism in one of nineteenth-century America’s preeminent fiction writers, Edgar Allan Poe.

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