“The Fall of the House of Usher” Question

My question for “The Fall of the House of Usher”: What is the significance of the servant characters that are briefly mentioned? Why don’t they get any attention?

The story tries to create an isolated feeling of only the brother and sister living in the house in order to intensify their dependence on each other and their obscurity from humanity and the outside world and convey the deep emptiness and loneliness of the huge house, but the presence of the servant characters, for me personally, sort of underscored that. I wondered why the characters were even mentioned when I’m sure Poe could’ve conveyed some other way that the narrator got into the house. A servant, a valet, and a physician are all mentioned within one paragraph and then are never seen again.

I tried using Voyant to help me find an answer to my question but I didn’t find much. The word “servant” is used only once when letting the narrator in, “valet” twice, once when leading the narrator through the house and the second when opening a door for the narrator, and “physician” twice, once when leaving the house when the narrator is arriving and the second is just to mention that physicians had visited the sister before. Again, these are all in the same single paragraph except the second mention of physicians. I tried looking up other service words I could think of but didn’t have much luck.

I looked up the words “lonely”, “isolated”, “empty”, and found nothing. The world “only” appears a few times, the two most notable being that the narrator is the Master’s only friend and that the sister is his only relative left. The world “sole” is used twice, again the most notable is to mention that the Master’s sister is his sole companion, which again, felt underscored by the fact that the reader was introduced to multiple servants working in the house previously in the story. The world “alone” was mentioned six times, the two notable instances being the narrator saying he and the Master were alone together, once from him saying he alone spent many hours with the Master and the other saying that the Master and he alone took the sisters body down to the tomb.

While these instances that Voyant showed me were interesting, they didn’t really answer my question about the servants, or I suppose they did in that the answer is that they aren’t meant to be significant but then I still wonder why Poe bothered to mention them. Is it a classism thing? Do servant characters not count as additional people? are servant characters just relatively not significant in general during this time period?

I think perhaps my question was too small or too abstract in that it was more of a wondering about Poe’s writing motives and decisions and Voyant wasn’t really able to help me with that. Also I might not have utilized Voyant as much as I could have, I feel that most of the results I got were results I could’ve gotten by just doing ctrl + F on my laptop, but again I think my question was just not well fitted to the tools I had and the fact that it’s a short text so doing a simple ctrl + F is a lot easier than if I was using multiple large texts.

1 thought on ““The Fall of the House of Usher” Question”

  1. Your question is really interesting. But a frustration with Voyant – – and it often can be frustrating — can be an opportunity to rethink questions. In this case, I wonder if the relative absence – – textually speaking – – of servants might relate to other absences? (Kind of a weird, gestalt perspective.) For instance, are there other “missing” or barely present characters – – besides servants? (I’m thinking of Madeline.) How are these characters made visible in the text/language of the story? What words seem to define the relationship between the “main” characters and these other characters?

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