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Story Review Example of THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER

Symbolic Elements in The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
Summary

The narrator goes to the House of Usher. It is unkempt with cracks, decays in various places
and has an evil atmosphere. His friend Roderick, who is both physically and emotionally sick,
sent him a letter requesting his company and assistance. The narrator finds the inside of the
house as creepy as the outside. He notes that Roderick is less energetic and looks pale unlike
before (Poe 2010). Roderick explains that he suffers from “a family evil” but dismisses it. He
alleges to have a heightened sensory acuteness which is causing him to be in great pain. Later
on, the narrator finds out that Madeline is in fact Roderick’s twin sister. Madeline has a
mysterious sickness that is not treatable. The narrator tries to cheer Roderick up to no avail. He
learns that Roderick himself is afraid of his own house (Douglas 2005).
When Madeline dies, Roderick decides to bury her temporarily in the tombs just below the
house. With the events that follow, the narrator is unable to sleep because of Roderick’s
uneasiness. The narrator reads “Mad Trist” by Sir Lancelot Canning, a medieval romance that
assures that Roderick will help him through the night. In the middle of him reading, he hears
sounds (Kerry Vermillion and Quinn McCumber 2000). He first thinks that it is his imagination,
but they later become so distinct and cannot be ignored. He notices that Roderick is muttering
to himself saying that he has been hearing the sounds for quite a long time and believes that
Madeline is trying to escape since they buried her alive. As the wind blows the door open, they
see Madeline standing in a white robe. Roderick is so terrified that he dies. The narrator gets a
chance to flee and as he does that, the entire house crumbles to the ground (Gale 2001).

Symbolism

Death
This is defined as a permanent termination. This book falls into the Gothic category. We see
that each and every character in this book is linked to death. Physically, the House of Usher
symbolizes death. Descriptions such as “eye-like windows” and “minute fungi…hanging in a fine
tangled web-work from the eaves,” among others are used.
The Small Fissure
Upon his arrival, the narrator notices cracks in the House of Usher, which refers both to family
and the building. The small fissure represents the disruption in the togetherness of the family
specifically between Roderick and his sister Madeline. This disruption tears the family and the
house to pieces.
The Name ‘Usher’
An usher refers to a doorman or doorkeeper. With this in mind, Roderick Usher opens the door
to a scary, eerie world for the narrator to be in.
Poe’s style of telling the story is quite unique. There are themes, motifs and symbolism which
are significant (Poe 2010).

Reference

1. Gale Cengage, (2001). Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism.


2. Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Fall of the House of Usher” (illustrated by Alastair ed.). McLean
Books. Retrieved 6 April 2010. The Fall of the House of Usher.
3. Edgar Allan Poe. (28 Oct. 2005). Biographical Contexts for “The Fall of the House of Usher”
by Douglas Scharf.
4. Beyond Empiricism and Transcendentalism (2000). Historical Contexts for “The Fall of the
House of Usher” by Kerry Vermillion and Quinn McCumber.
THE NECKLACE BY GUY DE MAUPASSANT

Lessons We Can Learn from “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant

A popular French writer of the 19th century, Guy de Maupassant, is the author of about
300 short stories. One of the most famous short stories of Maupassant’s is “The
Necklace” (“La Parure”). In some editions it has a title, “The Diamond Necklace”. This
story was first published in the French newspaper Le Gaulois on 17th of February 1884
(Roberts, 1991).

In this short story, Maupassant describes the life of Mathilde Loisel, a young, pretty and
charming woman who lives in dreams of wealth and luxury. Born and raised in a family
of clerks, she refuses to accept her position in life and feels cheated instead. She wants
to take a higher social status, that is why her marriage with a low-paid clerk does not
bring happiness to her. She cannot obtain all those wonderful jewels she dreams about
and this fact spoils her life. Even her husband’s love and caring attitude cannot comfort
her, because like a spoiled child, she is blind with her desire and does not notice
anything else.

“The Necklace” is deeply didactic: it shows us how people put so much value in
materialism, worshipping expensive items and rich people themselves. It reminds us to
avoid Madam Loisel’s fatal mistakes and focus on the eternal joys of life, such as love,
health, and family. We can say that this short story is similar to a moralistic fable. The
length of the work also reminds us of a sapiential Aesop’s Fable. The example of the
protagonist induces us to realize that “hubris” is destructive for our life and we should
not try to be who we are not.

Despite the moral and instructive meaning of the story, it is important to mention that
there is no sermonizing. Readers understand the message of the story on their own.
This is typical for most of Maupassant’s short stories. His characters are often the
unhappy victims of their vanity, desire and greed and the writing style resembles the
style of Gustave Flaubert due to its clarity, simplicity and objective calmness (The
Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., 2012).

The title of the story is not accidental. The necklace is a symbol of envy and greed
which are the leading themes of the story. It owns a central role in the story of vanity
and two ruined human lifes, put on the altar of material objects. The necklace
represents that deceiving other people will inevitably lead to one’s downfall. Also, in a
symbolical way, it shows how greed can change a human’s soul. We can compare the
necklace with the protaginist herself – someone who has a strong desire to have an
expensive look, but in reality, it was fake.

This work could become a true Cinderella story with the traditional happy ending. Its
main heroine could be rescued and given a rightful place in society. But as we see,
Maupassant decided to write a story that could happen in our everyday life, not a tale.
That is why he portrayed Mathilde as a prideful woman, obsessed with the idea of
getting rich. She wanted other woman to envy her and was ready to do everything to get
jewels and life punished her for this.
Even though “The Necklace was written in the 19th century, it is worth reading today, as
such themes as greed and desire for fast enrichment remain relevant. This short story is
written in a simple and clear way, but its meaning is deep without a doubt. It teaches us
to be thankful for everything we have and remember that greed leads to deplorable
results.

References

Edgar Roberts: Writing Themes About Literature (7th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:
Prentice Hall, 1991. – p. 4.
Maupassant, Guy de.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., 2012. Retrieved 13 May,
2013.
The Tales of Maupassant. New York: Heritage Press. 1964.

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HAPPY LIKE THIS


Ashley Wurzbacher
University of Iowa Press (Oct 15, 2019)
Softcover $17.00 (218pp)
978-1-60938-683-2

The private, intimate stories of Ashley Wurzbacher’s Happy Like This navigate deciphering oneself
with impeccable logic. Unfastening and opening the shell around each narrator’s heart, answers
hang over the collection, both banner and pall. In these stories, it’s impossible to “be still, be safe,”
even when alone.

Two sections, “Like That” and “Like This,” divide the ten stories. Like the title, these sections reflect a
Virginia Woolf quote prefacing the book: “They’re happy like that; I’m happy like this.” In the stories
that comprise “Like That,” narrators are outsiders who examine others’ differences, while the
narrators in “Like This” are insiders provoked by some novel influence to consider themselves within
their various social realities.

Even at their most isolated, these narrators display how interdependent people are, all the more so
within the solitude of themselves. Whether belonging, love, pain, understanding, transformation,
endings, or, more often, a quagmire of all of these, what’s sought can only be discovered in
relationship to others. The relationships within stories are varied and riveting: “Sickness and Health”
traces a graduate student’s study of undergrad girls with factitious disorders; “Happy Like This”
probes the layered love between two women linguists whose friendship, even in its constancy,
reverberates with the potential for endings and beginnings.

Wurzbacher understands “intimately the ways in which people change: rapidly, without warning.” As
various narrators find their ways, a necessary union between separation and discovery emerges.
Nothing that causes growth is neutral, and the more necessary the connection a narrator forms, the
greater the chance that the connection contains either an expiration or an explosion of the status
quo.

Full of the strange ordinariness of relating, Happy Like This hits a nerve, vital and bewitching
“because of its suggestion that there is no universal language, none at all, that even the language of
desperation is particular and private.”

Reviewed by Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers


November / December 2019

THE DESIRABLE SISTER


Taslim Burkowicz
Roseway Publishing (Nov 2, 2019)
Softcover $22.00 (310pp)
978-1-77363-232-2

When two members of Vancouver’s Gujarati Indian community marry, they have no idea that their
daughters, Gia and Serena, are destined to complete the cycle of sororial tension begun in their
mother’s generation. These sisters come together and fall apart, each grappling with the skin they’re
in; Taslim Burkowicz’s novel The Desirable Sister questions what that skin means about who they
become and who they’re seen to be.

Because of their heritage, Gia and Serena are both desperate to fit in. But the sisters’ experiences of
desirability, where it comes from, and the communities and spaces it gives them access to or
excludes them from are mirror worlds of each other. Passing for white, Gia finds success first as a
model, later as an artist exploring the Indian identity she feels invisible within. Serena’s a thriving
social worker whose stability and financial security have eluded her sister, but her coloring makes
her the target of toxic messages about melanin in both white and Indian spaces.

The novel does its best character work when it’s digging into tropes. It unearths unique, personal
stories that highlight what social expectation veils in terms of individual identity. The sisters’ self-
interrogations are well realized, bridging the particular experience of growing up first-generation
Indo-Canadian in a Gujarati household with universal women’s pain: “social pressures, the limits of
[the] biological clock” and the “world of boys, success, or beauty.” The opportune tidiness of its
violent resolution is more flat.

In The Desirable Sister, acceptance isn’t just about self-love but about the social conditioning that
shapes self-perception. Gia and Serena chase a sense of wholeness and belonging that isn’t one-
size-fits-all, but personhood rarely is, even when there’s an issue like colorism compressing all with
an almost unbearable weight.

Reviewed by Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers


November / December 2019

DIGGY THE DOG EXPLORES


FRIENDSHIP
Adam Loveless
Elena Kochetova (Illustrator)
Loveless Letters (Mar 14, 2020)
Hardcover $19.95 (44pp)
978-0-578-59581-8

Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5

Diggy the Dog Explores Friendship is lovable for its example of asking for
help and finding friends in the bargain.

In Adam Loveless’s frolicsome picture book, a dog who’s stranded on the wrong side of a river bank
finds his way home through teamwork.

Diggy crosses a dilapidated bridge that breaks. With no way back to his farm, he looks for help. He
meets a beaver who’d take too long to build a new bridge; a clumsy moose with poor eyesight; a
bear who can’t swim; and an owl who is too small. All of them are kind, though they can’t help Diggy
on their own. But when they band together, they’re able to push a tree until it falls across the water
to form a new path home.

Its message encouraging and familiar, this is a story about the power of groups. It unfolds through
the time-honored pattern of having the main character explain his situation to each new character he
meets. This is a reassuring structure, calibrating the conflict so that it’s worrisome but not dire; it’s no
surprise when Diggy reaches home.

Elena Kochetova’s illustrations are a sound marriage of soft woodland backgrounds and wacky
characters. Diggy is all slapstick limbs that fly akimbo. His frenetic energy and panic are telegraphed
through his expressions; his wolfish snout and gap-toothed grin are charming. Details that go
beyond the text, from a moose’s leg that’s stuck in a jam jar to hulking proportions for the bear who
uses trees to weight lift, dial up the visual comedy and alleviate the fear that’s inherent in being lost.

Cartoon eyes and floating eyebrows give the animals an appealing misfit air; Diggy’s new friends are
as unique as he is, and it’s delightful to watch him find support. They all possess strengths and
weakness, making the suggestion that they’re better off together credible.

Rhymes range from clever, such as “bridge/damage,” to constructions that break the book’s read-
aloud flow. Some lines are wordier than necessary, particularly where the artwork already
invigorates the characters’ actions enough.

The uplifting picture book Diggy the Dog Explores Friendship is lovable for its example of asking for
help and finding friends in the bargain.

Reviewed by Karen Rigby


February 17, 2020
THE ILLUSTRATED WILD BOY
REFLECTIONS ON THE PRESENTATION OF SELF
John Du Cane
Judit Tondora (Illustrator)
Du Cane Media (Jan 14, 2020)
Hardcover $29.95 (119pp)
978-1-73419-440-1

Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5

A voyeuristic literary and visual pleasure, The Illustrated Wild Boy is a


shocking, amusing, and entertaining memoir.

John Du Cane’s memoir The Illustrated Wild Boy contains adventures and anecdotes from a lifetime
spent exploring at the fringes of society.

The book’s stories live up to their “wild” billing, with accounts of sexual experiences realized and
almost realized, a conversation with a murderer, and excrement served up in patties for dinner,
among other subjects. Each story is no more than a page or two long, and they are told in concise,
controlled explosions of words chosen for maximum impact.

The book’s pace is unrelenting. As soon as one story ends, the next arrives, like a series of cars
poised for hit-and-run collisions. A raw vitality permeates the book, reflecting a try-anything
philosophy. Humor is also abundant amid tales of near deaths, real and imagined.

Du Cane, a filmmaker, spiritual seeker, and fitness guru, writes with a distinct and appealing voice,
world wise but not world weary. His stories, like one that explains how he came to eat some of his
cremated father’s ashes, are memorable, of the sort that can be read aloud to regale an audience.
They’re sorted into chapters that provide structure and that are titled to give a hint of what lies in
wait. The titles of individual stories, such as “The Angry Dwarf from Horror Hospital,” also inspire
curiosity.

A list of encountered notables includes Lou Reed, Mick Jagger, and Andy Warhol, and the stories
also cover time spent across the globe. The fearless inclusion of embarrassing details, like a semi-
accidental sexual encounter with a drag queen, enhance the rich, funny tales. These extensive,
excessive life experiences are filtered through Du Cane’s perspective as a husband and father; the
book acknowledges both the nobility and the comedy inherent to human life.

The writing is punchy, muscular, and bracing. Anecdotes begin with first lines that are intriguing and
immersive, such as “The Buick Century belched to a stop on red” and “The Americans invented
‘dating’—although they are usually puzzled when I tell them so.” Stories’ final lines are also funny
and thoughtful, often ending with tantalizing ellipses to indicate that they might not yet be complete;
they are somewhat open to interpretation.

Judit Tondora’s illustrations appear every couple of pages. They utilize bright colors and bold
designs. They sometimes consist of quotes from the text in large fonts that play against textured
backdrops and collages, showing bits of people or other recognizable elements of the relevant story.
More striking are the illustrations that don’t use text at all: a stained-glass-style image of Lou Reed’s
death while doing Tai Chi with his wife Laurie Anderson; and a Cubist, Picasso-style likeness of Du
Cane. The illustrations show a fascinating variety of creative visual styles, from comic-book-style
pictorial storytelling to full-page images that vary to match the tones of their connected stories.

A voyeuristic literary and visual pleasure, The Illustrated Wild Boy is a shocking, amusing, and
entertaining memoir.

Reviewed by Peter Dabbene


February 14, 2020

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