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The Fall of the House of Usher is here in time for Halloween, but it did not come alone. It’s apparent from The Haunting of Bly Manor and The Midnight Club that Flanagan loves incorporating other works from an author. So, it should shock no one that The Fall of the House of Usher does not draw its tale solely from Edgar Allan Poe’s aforementioned story. Stories, poems, and folks from personal conflicts appear in this dastardly tale of monstrous people and wealth. The episode’s titles clearly state the story the episode pulls from. But there’s more here besides that. So, here’s your spoiler warning.
Poe’s most famous poem, “The Raven,” published in 1845—I prefer “The Bells”—papers the eight episodes. Besides the literal raven flitting about in episodes, there is also Roderick Usher’s granddaughter’s name, Lenore, which draws from the lost love in the poem. Two of the episode titles also come from that poem. The first episode, “A Midnight Dreary,” is the first line of Poe’s narrative poem, “Once upon a midnight dreary,” while the last episode takes the poem’s title.
Another morbid yet beautiful poem, “For Annie,” published in 1849, gets a nod in the first episode. While in church to mourn the loss of three of his children, Roderick Usher is distracted by paranormal guests. Meanwhile, the priest’s words, “and the fever called living is conquered at last,” pull directly from this poem about blessed death.
“Spirits of the Dead”
“For Annie” isn’t the only poem referenced by the priest at the funeral. He transitions from that poem to how those who pass away remain around one in death as they were in life. That comes directly from this poem, published in 1884. The poem even appears literally with all the dead lingering around Roderick Usher.
The name Lenore does not just appear in Poe’s “The Raven,” but the lady gets her self-titled poem. Originally published under the title “A Pæan” in 1831, the poem’s title changed to “Lenore” in 1843. Besides the granddaughter, Lenore, in the show, an older Roderick recites lines from the poem as a young Roderick and Madeline bury their dead religious mother, Eliza, in the backyard.
While Tamerlane Usher is not ruling on the scale of the narrator in Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tamerlane” poem, published in 1827, she exudes the qualities discussed within. She is proud and seeks power, wanting to climb to the top of her small Goop-like empire and gain recognition from her father, Roderick. This comes with the price of lost love, save as the poem’s narrator.
Murders in the Rue Morgue
Camille’s death mirrors the one in this short story, though the series takes an additional supernatural spin. Auguste Dupin is in three of Poe’s short stories, the first of which is Murders in the Rue Morgue, published in 1829. In the series, RUE means Roderick Usher Experimental, which his offspring called “RUE Zoo” as kids before realizing the animal cruelty and changing it to “RUE Morgue.”
Dupin is a recurring character in three of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories. In the stories, he is a detective rather than a prosecuting lawyer whose relationship with the Ushers goes back decades.
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket
In the show, Arthur Pym is the Usher family’s lawyer, hitman, cleaner, etc. But in Poe’s works, he’s from Poe’s only novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, published in 1838. Before meeting Pym in the series, during the funeral in “A Midnight Dreary,” a part of this novel makes its first appearance when Roderick sees apparitions only he can see at the church.
His granddaughter, Lenore, questions him, using the nickname “Grampus,” which is the name of the ship Pym boards in the story. It’s referenced again in “The Masque of the Red Death” episode when Lenore and her father, Frederick, complete a boat in a bottle for Roderick and discuss naming it “Grampus.”
Lastly, in the series’ sixth episode, “Goldbug,” Pym mentions a dinner date with Richard Parker. In the novel, the crew of a whaling ship winds up lost at sea and eats a young crewmate named Richard Parker. Also, think about the fact that the 1938 book prophetically came true decades later.
Napoleon Usher’s first name comes from the short story published in 1844, “The Spectacles,” about a man who learns a valuable lesson about wearing his spectacles to see what’s there. It’s loosely similar to what Napoleon experiences in the series during “The Black Cat” episode, as what he and others see differs.
Frederick’s wife, Morelle Usher, ties in with the “Morella,” a short story published in 1835. But it goes deeper than that. The story is about a narrator who wishes for his wife’s death, going on to dislike his daughter as she begins to resemble his late wife. In the series, Frederick resents Morelle because he believes she had an affair, and that anger builds to where he takes it out on their daughter, Lenore.
A short story about a man obsessed with his cousin—if you know about Edgar Allan Poe, then you know—a quote from the short story “Eleanora,” published in 1842 surfaces during Tamerlane’s “Goldbug” episode. After Roderick accuses his sister of spouting nonsense, she responds, “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence.” It is fitting that a woman like Madeline, who does not want a man to control her but also has an unnaturally close relationship with her brother, says this.
Yes, even a spouse or two get in on the action. Tamerlane’s husband is William “Bill-T” Wilson. “William Wilson” is a short story published in 1839. It’s about the narrator, William Wilson, encountering another William Wilson, who shares countless similarities, including date of birth. A doppelganger-style tale that devolves into narrator Wilson trying to kill the other. Though Tamerlane’s husband bears the name, Tamerlane herself goes through this ordeal, which comes to a head in the “Goldbug” episode.
“The Premature Burial”
Usher’s daughter, Victorine Lafourcade, gets her name from “The Premature Burial,” published in 1844. In the short story, the narrator’s mind incites terror not of death but of burial while still alive. Though not in The Fall of the House of Usher, that terror and paranoia is a staple of Poe’s works and appears in Victorine’s episode “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
“The Imp of the Perverse”
Roderick and Madeline Usher’s arc in The Fall of the House of Usher series shares similarities to Poe’s tale, published in 1845, about someone who murders to inherit a man’s estate. Though, arguably, Fortunato is the Usher birthright, they still kill to claim it. Additionally, quotes from the short story, “The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague,” and “We stand on the brink of a precipice,” appear in the first episode.
“The Cask of Amontillado”
Fortunato is a company in the series. But in Poe’s short story published in 1846, Fortunato is a person. A friend murders him by chaining him to the wall and bricking him in alive, precisely how Roderick and Madeline murder CEO Rufus Wilmot Griswold to seize control of Fortunato. The murder merges “The Imp of the Perverse” and “The Cask of Amontillado.” Another connection is the costume Griswold wears of a carnival jester, as in the story, the murder takes place during Carnival season, and the 1925 bottle of Amontillado wine Madeline hands Rufus.
Given the bells jingling throughout the series, it may connect to “The Bells,” Poe’s poem published in 1849. The poem talks about hearing the sound of different types of bells and the subsequent emotions their differing sounds engender. The bells in Griswold’s Carnival mask can easily fit the bone-chilling “brazen bells” or “iron bells” in the poem. Now, about Griswold…
Rufus Wilmot Griswold
Griswold was a colleague of Poe’s who became a foe after Poe gave a less-than-stellar review to a poetry anthology Griswold put together. As soon as Poe died, Griswold wrote articles criticizing him and went on to write a biography, further painting Poe in a negative light.
William Wadsworth Longfellow
Roderick and Madeline’s father, who refuses to acknowledge them as his own, William Longfellow, in “A Midnight Dreary,” connects to Poe and fellow writer and poet William Wadsworth Longfellow. Though initially cordial, Poe later attacked Longfellow’s works, even going so far as to accuse him of plagiarism.
Another contemporary writer who gets a nod in the series is American author, critic, and editor John Neal. In The Fall of the House of Usher, John Neal becomes Judge John Neal and oversees the trial against the Usher family. Although, he seems predisposed to show favoritism to the defendants—the Ushers—over the prosecutor, Dupin.
Roderick and Madeline’s mother, Eliza, share the same first name as Poe’s mother. Though with just a first name, it’s hard to be sure. But given the amount of detail in Flanagan’s previous works, I will say the choice of name is intentional.
With all the interconnectedness between Poe’s works, did we miss something? Let us know! The Fall of the House of Usher is on Netflix now.