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Fall of the House of Usher Lesson Plans

Continuing his tradition of the creepy, weird, and Gothic style, Edgar Allan Poe does not disappoint in this short story about a strange family who finds its end in the most macabre of ways. Likely, the "fall" the title is referring to is both the actual structure of the Usher family’s house, and the fall of the Usher family itself, as both heirs die and end the family name.

For those looking for the quintessential Gothic tale, "The Fall of the House of Usher" highlights many important Gothic features, especially in the description of the house itself. The fact that the house, Roderick, and Madeline all seem to be affected by this crumbling, diseased-like atmosphere paints a bleak and supernatural picture that some have argued mirror the human psyche. Similar to other popular Poe tales, he uses Roderick Usher to explore his common themes of terror, death, and the fragility of the human mind.

Student Activities for The Fall of the House of Usher

Essential Questions for "The Fall of the House of Usher"

  1. How are elements of Gothic literature reflected in characters and setting?
  2. How can fear paralyze a person’s mind?
  3. What kind of mood can language and setting create?

Focusing on Gothic Style

"The Fall of the House of Usher" is a classic example of Gothic style. Get your students familiar with the Gothic style of writing and architecture first!

Gothic Writing

Setting Story is set in a bleak or remote location.

Plot The plot typically involves macabre or violent incidents.

Characters Characters are usually in a state of psychological or physical torment.

The Supernatural Often an otherworldly element is present and driving the plot.

Gothic Architecture

Tall, Sweeping Structures Very vertical, usually draws the eye upwards, to emphasize grandeur; inside usually features vaulted ceilings
Flying Buttresses Exterior architectural support that was just as ornate as the structure itself
Pointed Arches and Ribbed Vaults Ribbed vaults allowed for more windows, and pointed arches could reach higher while supporting more weight
Ornamentation Stained glass and carefully carved statues were typical features. These included Biblical scenes, figures, and even gargoyles

Image Attributions
Find more lesson plans and activities like these in our English Language Arts Category!

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