"The Fall of The House of Usher" and "House Taken Over": a Comparison

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Table of Contents

  • Narrative Techniques
  • Themes of Isolation and Decay
  • The Unexplained and the Unknown
  • Fate of the Central Characters
  • Conclusion

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" and Julio Cortázar's "House Taken Over" are two compelling and eerie tales that explore themes of isolation, decay, and the unknown. Despite their differences in style and cultural context, these stories share some striking similarities and differences in their portrayal of haunted houses and the psychological effects on their inhabitants. This essay will compare and contrast these two literary works, delving into their narrative techniques, themes, and the ultimate fate of their central characters.

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Narrative Techniques

One of the most significant differences between the two stories lies in their narrative techniques. "The Fall of the House of Usher" is a gothic short story characterized by its rich, descriptive prose and first-person narration. The narrator, who remains unnamed, provides an intimate account of his visit to the Usher mansion, offering insights into the thoughts and feelings of the characters.

On the other hand, "House Taken Over" employs a more modern and minimalist narrative style. Cortázar's story is written in the third person and adopts a detached, almost clinical tone. The reader observes Irene and the narrator from an external perspective, which contributes to a sense of ambiguity and distance from the characters' inner thoughts.

Themes of Isolation and Decay

Both stories share common themes of isolation and decay, albeit in distinct ways. In "The Fall of the House of Usher," the mansion itself is a physical representation of decay. Its cracked walls, decaying timbers, and oppressive atmosphere mirror the deteriorating mental and physical state of the Usher siblings, Roderick and Madeline. The house's isolation from the outside world intensifies the sense of decay and foreboding.

In "House Taken Over," the theme of isolation takes a different form. Irene and the narrator lead a quiet, routine life within their home until they are gradually forced to confine themselves to a diminishing portion of the house. The house becomes a symbol of their isolation, as they are ultimately pushed out of their own space by an unexplained presence. This theme of isolation is conveyed through a growing sense of unease and confinement.

The Unexplained and the Unknown

Both stories incorporate elements of the unexplained and the unknown, leaving readers to grapple with ambiguity and uncertainty. In "The Fall of the House of Usher," the mysterious ailment afflicting Roderick and the unexplained reappearance of Madeline from her premature burial contribute to an atmosphere of supernatural uncertainty. The story leaves readers pondering whether the events have a rational explanation or are the result of supernatural forces.

Similarly, "House Taken Over" introduces an unknown presence that gradually infiltrates the house. The story never offers a concrete explanation for this presence, leaving readers to speculate about its nature and purpose. This deliberate ambiguity generates a sense of unease and reinforces the theme of the unknown.

Fate of the Central Characters

The ultimate fate of the central characters in these stories diverges significantly. In "The Fall of the House of Usher," the story concludes with the collapse of the mansion and the deaths of Roderick and Madeline. The Usher family lineage ends in tragedy and dissolution. The house, representing their psychological and physical decay, is consumed by a tarn, sealing their doom.

In contrast, "House Taken Over" ends with Irene and the narrator choosing to abandon their home voluntarily. They opt to leave their house to the unexplained presence, suggesting a certain resignation to the unknown. Unlike the Ushers, they survive physically but relinquish their familiar space, raising questions about the nature of the threat and the characters' response to it.


In summary, Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" and Julio Cortázar's "House Taken Over" may differ in style, cultural context, and narrative technique, but they share common themes of isolation, decay, and the unknown. Both stories employ ambiguity to create a sense of unease and leave readers with unanswered questions. However, their treatment of the fate of central characters diverges significantly, with the Ushers meeting a tragic end while Irene and the narrator choose to abandon their home.

These two tales exemplify the enduring appeal of the haunted house motif in literature and the diverse ways in which authors can evoke feelings of fear, suspense, and existential questioning. Whether exploring the depths of gothic horror or the subtleties of psychological unease, these stories continue to captivate readers with their exploration of the eerie and the enigmatic.

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