“Ligeia” and “Fall of the House of Usher”

Identity:

There are several parallel themes between the two stories. In both stories, two characters are portrayed as dual identities, or as being two parts of one whole. Madeline and Roderick are twins, identical in appearance. Ligeia and Rowena are also compared to each other, as being two sides of woman. In the end, the stronger identity absorbs and overcomes the weaker one. Roderick kills Madeline by burying her alive. He absorbs her into his identity by keeping her body in the house, which is really just an extension of himself. Ligeia’s spirit kills Rowena and then inhabits her body, absorbing her identity so that Ligeia can live on earth again. The epigraph at the start of “Ligeia” illustrates Poe’s concept of domination by stronger wills:

“And the will therein lieth, which dieth not. Who knoweth the mysteries of the will, with its vigour? For God is but a great will pervading all things by nature of its intentness. Man doth not yield himself to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will.”

External Reflects the Internal:

The internal struggles of Poe’s characters are reflected by their physical form and surroundings. Both the house and the abbey are described as being run-down and draped with “verdant decay” (649). There is a large crack in the front of the House of Usher, representing the split between the characters and the coming apart of their psyches. Roderick is repeatedly described as looking like a corpse. When we get our first glimpse of Madeline, she flits in and out of the scene as if she is already a ghost. Emphasis on bridal imagery reflects the characters’ obsessions with purity. Madeline is dressed in a white dress when she is buried. It is implied that part of the reason Roderick kills her and buries her alive is because he wants to maintain her purity, even in death. The narrator of “Ligeia” always refers to his and Rowena’s bedroom as the bridal chamber. He even references this fact after she has died and he is sitting by her corpse.

Sex and Death:

References to purity also tie into the theme of sex and death. In the bridal chamber, there is a sarcophagus in each of the four corners of the room, looming over them. Madeline’s white dress is stained with blood after she fights her way out of her entombment. For humans, sex has always been the closest way of creating immortality. People die, but can live on through their progeny. Both the narrator of “Ligeia” and Roderick pervert and subvert this idea, bringing about death, destruction, and the end of their line. The narrator of “Ligeia” is obsessed with his first wife and her death. Even after he is remarried, he goes around the abbey crying out for her, and essentially summons her. Roderick has so idealized his sister’s purity that he buries her rather than allow her to leave and marry and have children, destroying the Usher family line. This ties back into the idea of the internal being reflected by the external. As the lineage of Ushers is ended and demolished, the house, which symbolizes their family heritage, collapses in around them.

Questions:

  1. Do you see the conflict between Ligeia/Rowena and Roderick/Madeline as a battle of wills? If so, why do Ligeia and Roderick win out in the end? What makes them stronger?
  2. What other examples, from the stories, can you give that demonstrate external appearances as reflecting internal states? What is the importance of all the external description to the stories? What does it add overall?
  3. How do you define the relationship between sex and death in these stories? What ways are these two concepts linked in the stories?

Alicia Fredericksen

Zachary Gibson

Mary Cox

41 thoughts on ““Ligeia” and “Fall of the House of Usher”

  1. Yes, I do believe that it was a battle of the wills between Ligeia and Rowena but as they are both dead, I believe that it was more opium induced than a literal battle. It is more of a battle inside of the narrator’s drugged out brain between the two women that he loves the most, with Ligeia taking the top spot. The House in The Fall of the House of Usher at the end of the story at least is a representation of the internal conditions of Roderick and Madeline. The house splitting right down the middle, the walls caving in upon themselves and the house sinking into the ground is the perfect representation of the way that that family has sort of sank into itself. The descriptions of the outside world serve to further strengthen the metaphor and connection between the internal and external worlds. The relationship between death and gender in these stories seems to be crucial, in that it is the women who keep dying, and the men in one way or another are pining and somehow bring them back to life. The connection here seems to Poe thinks that the loss of one you love especially a woman is the saddest thing in the world.

  2. ^^^ I agree with Josh H. Both stories have characters that have a battle of wills. Reading Ligeia, Rowena & Ligeia seem to have a clear cut battle but with Roderick and his twin sister, Madeline, it’s a little more complicated in my eyes. Roderick and Madelina are two separate people living in one house and with the representation of the the house splitting directly in half, it is a strong symbol of the separation between two people that anybody would expect to be closer.

  3. The duality in these stories is clearly evident with Rowena and Ligeia, and even more so with the twins Roderick and Madeline. However, the battle of the sexes is only seen in “Usher” as Roderick is in control of the household and therefore has the social strong hold on Madeline. This could be the reason his will power surpasses her own, however as both die at the end you could not say that there was a clear victor as in “Ligeia.” The second wife Rowena is clearly suffering due to the presence of Ligeia both internally and externally. Her husband is too preoccupied with the death of his former wife to notice her and she become very ill from what I would consider supernatural causes. In the way her body becomes undead and she takes the form of Ligeia there is a clear victor of will power as she has been completely possessed, or otherwise changed by the narrator’s mind and opium usage into what he really wanted.

  4. These two stories definitely do mirror each other. I agree that they both illustrate a battle of wills. However, I agree with Will’s above statement that the battle of the sexes is really only prevalent in The Fall of the House of Usher. Sex and expected gender roles are much more prevalent themes in this story than any other, in my opinion. In this story Poe goes out of his way to describe the incestuous line of the Ushers. He purposefully puts sex in the mind of the reader, therefore, he must be trying to say something about it. Poe almost seemed to play with conventional gender roles in this story. Both male and female fight for the power over the household and their lives. The man, seems to have won when he buries his sister alive but Poe thwarts the expected when she comes back to life and brings him to death with her.

  5. Poe also explicitly disagrees with his (fabricated) epigraph in “Ligeia”: that no matter how much will Ligeia has to live, and how passionate she may be, she cannot fend off death. And I’m curious about others’ reactions to the ending of “Ligeia.” The language seems purposefully ambiguous, so we don’t know whether the speaker has repeatedly suffocated Rowena as she revives, or whether she dies despite his attempts to save her. As he’s a classic unreliable narrator, I distrusted his version of the last scene, and thought that he did indeed kill her. The only thing his will has dominion over is his own mind: he convinced himself that Rowena died of her own accord, and his will for Ligeia is so great that he imagines she has returned.

    • How do you define the relationship between sex and death in these stories? What ways are these two concepts linked in the stories?

      The relationship between sex and death is very obvious in the story of Ligeia . He was sexually attracted to the Ligeia first from her intelligent brain to her dark gothic features . He was just completely aroused by Ligeia’s being vs. Rowena on the other hand was just simply a vagina (for the lack of better words ) to fill the physical needs of the narrator . We know this because when he was with her he was thinking about Ligeia even upon Rowena’s death the narrator still fantasied about ligeia . I almost think he was in love with Ligeia to the point were I personally believe he could have had some type of Necrophilia attraction to both dead bodies ..more so Rowena’s because he “wanted” Ligeia so bad.

  6. The use of sex and purity in both “Ligeia” and “Fall of the House of Usher” is exemplified in the women in the stories. The narrator of “Ligeia” goes on and on about her features, only comparing her to goddesses and “beings either above or apart from the earth” (646). Her pure beauty consumes the narrator, making him unable to be happy with Rowena.
    In “Fall of the House of Usher”, Roderick upholds his twins purity and beauty by not letting her leave the house and have her own family. To him, she cannot be soiled by a man or the real world. In the end, though, her purity is no longer once Roderick buries her alive and she is forced to escape from the tomb.
    Poe’s odd obsession with women, sexual purity, and death is greatly highlighted in these stories.

  7. I like how Amy S. put it, and I too felt that curiosity about the ending. To me it seemed that he was possibly killing her by suffocation, the fact that she seemed dead and then her face became pink again, only to once more go pale and cold. Either that or that was some really hallucinating going on. I was stunned by the mere fact that he is on Opium as his wife lay sick and dying.
    As far as Roderick/Madeline, There is definently the battle of the sexes. The relationship was very strange, usually twins are close and these two were distant, the split on the house was a representation of their sibling relationship. This story was very complicated compared to “Ligeia”, I’m looking forward to the class discussion.

  8. I feel it was a matter of the mind that kept them. Legia was kept alive by the naraters thoughts of her, where as Roderick let go of his sister thus making him “triumphant”, although I find very hard to even compare Roderick and Legia in the first place becasue their roles were in no way similar. As far a sex ,I think of sex as in gender both the beautiful women die and the men live, possibly a though of how Poe looked at the female race or a direct reflection of his own life

  9. 1. In Poe, it seems that desperation can be its own kind of righteousness. It seems to be that Ligeia and Roderick win because they want to live and engulf their loved ones. These have stronger forces of will, so they triumph – in their own miserable ways, of course.

    2. From “Usher”, a key example of external appearances reflecting internal states is the house of Usher itself. Poe describes it as: “The discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in the fine tangled web-work from the eaves. Yet this was all apart from any extraordinary dilapidation” (655). The house is slowly decaying from the outside in, but has yet to show any “extraordinary” damage or decay. This is a great example of the way setting can reflect character. The moral decay and incestuous situation of Madeline and Roderick is slowly eating away at them, but there had yet to be any major damage. This gives “Usher” a tense and expectant tone: one begins to wait for a catalyst to bring them all down. In general, external description serves to reflect or juxtapose internal characteristics in both setting and character. That is what it adds overall.

    3. Sex is commonly used as a way to prove that one is still alive, or to contribute to a sense of permanence or immortality. Poe, however, uses uncomfortably close juxtapositions of sex and death. It produces a visceral reaction and makes one question the conventions involved in both sex and death.

  10. 2. I do see it as a battle of wills. For Ligeia/Rowena, Legia wins because she has the will to hold on and “come back from the dead”. She makes us see that the narrator has completely lost touch with reality and is basically the reason Rowena dies. It is all symbolic. We’re not actually sure if she came back from the dead of if she is part of the narrator’s opium dream–but the fact that she pulls through over Rowena is her victory.
    I personally did not see it as Roderick winning in the end of The Fall of the House of Usher. He seemed to be the one more trapped and frantic. He can’t sleep and becomes hysterical and really is just driven mad. He basically dies of fear when he sees Madeline standing in the doorway. So I feel as though that is her victory over him. Her “will” to come back and get revenge, if you will.

    3. When the narrator of Ligeia describes the abbey it is like he is describing himself. He says it is “gloomy and dreary” (648), among many other characteristics that match his emotions.
    The house in The Fall of the House of Usher is decaying on the outside–just like Roderick and Madeline are decaying on the inside.

  11. Ligeia does the unthinkable and lives on past death. Even after death becomes her, she doesn’t cross over into the afterlife. Her soul still lingers on in the real world, as she appears in the narrator’s hallucinations. What she ultimately becomes is a figment of the narrator’s imagination, a figment that seems to become reality when she rebirths.Ligeia captivated the narrator to the point where he immortalized her through his opium usage. He never let go of Ligeia (mentally), and, in that sense, she lived on despite death. Roderick is also a victor in the battle of wills as he’s described as having a “morbid acuteness of the sense,” while Madeline is described as having an illness which caused her to lose consciousness and feeling. This shows that Madeline is of a weaker mental capacity than Roderick who communicates with a childhood friend about his problems. In the end, Roderick kills off Madeline and curbs his insanity. Therefore, he can be called the winner of “the battle of wills.”

  12. It seems to me that the two characters Ligeia and Roderick win out in the end because they want to take the form and become their other halves so to speak. They have a stronger will and also show a deep sense of depression and sorrow.
    An example that demonstrates external appearances as reflecting internal states include the following. In House of Usher the narrator describes the outside of Roderick and Madeline’s mansion as though it is crumbling and falling apart. In reality we are told that absolutely nothing is wrong with the house and that it is in stable condition but that there is an eerie feeling that sort of engulfs the house and all of estate. The house is in fact decaying, but not physically or structurally. It is morally falling to pieces. When Roderick and Madeline are found to be insane and Roderick buries his twin sister, the narrator begins to feel a sense of insanity.
    I do believe that sex is used as sort of an indicator that the love is still there and that the person is actually alive and physically there. Poe uses close quarters when he describes sex and the concept of death.

  13. Obviously at this point we see that Poe had some serious ideas about women, sexuality, and death. In all the short stories or poems we’ve read by him, there seems to always be a dead/dying woman in one way or another. I think the idea of the “power struggle” might be a comment on the time in which they were written, and womans rights were in the foreground of many peoples minds. Regardless there is certainly and power struggle in both Fall of the House of Usher, and Ligeia.
    I really appreciate Poe’s ability to express a feeling, and add depth to a character with his ability to remark on their surroundings or personal appearance. The most notable of these is of course the house of Usher itself. It is decrepid, and decaying, falling apart (literally). It is foreboding, and adds an image that lends itself well to the plot as a whole.

  14. While yes, it’s defintely a battle of wills between the two sets, it’s hard to say that Roderick won his battle with Madeline. Ligeia definitely won her battle, at least against Rowena in their husband’s mind – be it opium or not- because she ultimately takes over , even if it is an opium induced fantasy/nightmare. But to say Roderick won is hard to do. Okay, so techinally he buried Madeline. But a: She comes back, only to promptly die again. So Roderick has to see his worst fears realized doubly so. And B: It drives him bloody well insane (and no one in a Poe story is completely well anyway) what he did. He’s too undisturbed by it physically that is like he went into shock of sorts. “…he spoke in a low hurried and gibbering murmur as if unconscious of my presence (666)”. He’s lost it. And C: The house collapses and they both die. In the sense that Roderick makes it so Madeline can never escape him, yes, he won. But his ‘victory’ is hollow at best.

  15. The resurrection of Ligeia is due to her strong will. She is a very intelligent woman, knowledgeable in math science and the metaphysical. The narrator is fascinated and worships her. The will of the strong can defeat death. Madeline in the end is also willful and is able to claw her way out of a dungeon but her will turns against her and by killing Roderick, she kills herself again when the house falls.
    In Fall of the House of Usher, sex could be the direct cause of Madeline’s death. It is said that the House of Usher kept their line pure. Roderick never actually married. These two things could very well link to incest which would give a valid medical reason for the illness of Madeline and Roderick. The sexual habits led to the death of the family and the fall of the house. For the narrator of Ligeia, the two women he sleeps with die.

  16. I think that it is essential to consider the role of the narrator in the two stories. In “Ligeia”, it should be noted that the reader is getting a first-person perspective from an unreliable narrator. His opium-induced visions and his emphasis on sex and beauty show a narrator who is indulgent and unhappy. The epigraph at the beginning of the story is reflecting on the narrator’s will. The narrator has willed himself to envision his dying second wife as his dead first wife. The ambiguity of the end of the story is very interesting, as already pointed out previously. Poe uses ambiguity to leave the madness of the narrator open.

    By getting an outsiders perspective from the narrator in “Fall of the House of Usher”, the reader is offered a more honest story. The will of Roderick is dominant and sadistic. It is very interesting, however, that the narrator witnesses Roderick burying her alive. It should come to no surprise to the narrator, when Madeline reappears.

  17. Yes, I definitely see a conflict between Ligeia/Rowena and Roderick/Madeline as a battle of wills. With Ligeia still lingering in the real world due to the narrator’s hallucinations. Rowena has no choice but to succumb to Ligeia taking over her body, proving Ligeia won the narrator’s internal battle. With Roderick and Madeline, their separation is represented by the split in the house. Roderick is pressed on keeping his sister the way she is: beautiful and pure. And in order to keep her this way, he buries her alive so she can’t venture out and be ruined by the real world. Both the narrator and Roderick have strong wills to get what they want.

  18. Interestingly, Poe would open “Ligeia” with a quote that pretty much means that life is only sustainable through the willpower of an individual which is demonstrated through the revival of dead closed ones in both stories. Whether or not Ligeia’s return was of the narrator’s deluded imagination, her return indicates that desperation can sometimes drive a person’s will to survive. What survive in this case is the narrator and Ligeia’s love for each other as Ligeia was somehow able to beat death and materializes over Rowena’s body to be back once again with her lover. A similar idea of willpower overcoming death is conveyed again when Madeline escapes from her tomb to try to exact revenge on her brother. This exercise of willpower is more so on the vengeance spectrum than it is on desperation. Wrath drove Madeline to be stronger (in my opinion) and thus win this battle of wills against Roderick when he collapses in insanity (weakness) upon knowing that his sister has came back for him. Sex and death are juxtaposed to illustrate the contrast between life and passing. Sex is presented in the story as energy that exists when a person has motivations (ex: love) while death is portrayed as when this motivation no longer exist.

  19. I can see parallels between the two stories, but to me it is minimal. In Ligeia, the narrator is under a opium coma and cannot really distinguish reality from his own mind. In Usher, though Roderick is not completely in his right mind, he actions stem from wanting to keep the Usher bloodline “pure”. the only way to do that was to keep Madeline locked in the house and eventually bury her alive. In this sense, I see Roderick as more of a selfish person, he just wanted his own goals fulfilled, it had nothing to do with love for his sister. Ligeia’s narrator, though on drugs, just wanted his true love to come back, he didnt kill anyone, He even tried to bring Rowena back to life and did so multiple times when she was dying, he just happened to have Ligeia return to him. So there are paralels between the two, but it is the reasonings that change the perspective as to who is stronger.

  20. I agree that there are obvious similarities but I wouldn’t go as far to say that Roderick won. Ligeia cannot fend off death, but still brings the narrator to death in vengeful fashion. She was ignored and unappreciated, got sick and then died. Everything about Ligeia’s story screams “vengeance.” On the other hand, Roderick seems to be trying to uphold something he deems sacred. So the fact that he dies for it is a bit different in regards to winning and losing.

    Like Kirby said, the House of Usher itself is an example of external settings reflecting internal states. The house has “minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in the fine tangled web-work from the eaves. Yet this was all apart from any extraordinary dilapidation” (655). The house, like the Ushers, are beaten but not broken.

    The links between sex and death and this give the reader a perverse perspective on the mood or atmosphere of the two events, respectively. The reader is forced to feel uncomfortable with the two ideas.

  21. Edgar Allan Poe’s stories are Gothic literature. He uses a lot of relationships between sex and death in his stories. Poe had a curse around women he was close with. All the women he was close with died by some cause. His stories reflected his problems with women. The dead women in his stories most likely reflected his women though his lifetime. With that he writes about women death in his stories.

  22. I think that in the end of both of the stories, Ligeia and Roderick do win out in the end because they got rid of the person that was imitating them of trying to take over their lives. For example, Roderick gets rid of the person that looks exactly like him, that seems like an extension of himself. And Ligeia gets rid of Rowena, who got in the way because she became the second wife.

    The House of Usher itself is an example of external settings reflecting internal states. The house, like the Ushers, is run down but not yet broken. The house does represent everything that is going inside of it. It is both the literal fall of the house of Usher and the metaphorical fall of the people living in this house: becoming insane and eventually dying.

    I think the idea of both sex and death is very morbid and it makes the reader take a second look at what they are reading so that they don’t feel good about it and it truly makes one feel awkward. I also think that these two show the contrasting ideas of being alive-sex, and being dead-death, and the motivations that come with these two.

  23. I can understand Ligeia and Rowena’s conflict as a battle of wills where Ligeia surpasses Rowena. I don’t think Roderick and Madeline’s conflict was a battle of wills unless you mean him imposing his will by murdering her. Ligeia wins because her spirit is resurrected by the narrator, whom drains Rowena of her will to live which makes his former wife stronger. It seems like every character’s description makes them a perfect embodiment of their internal struggle-gaunt and slightly whimsical looking or beautiful and haunting. I like that it adds a dimension of inseparability from the physical and the mental.

    I don’t know how to link sex and death in these stories quite yet. I think its interesting that the women are both objects of affection or deep connection and that they die, meekly. Poe does a pretty good job of victimizing women.

  24. For the first question, what I think “makes them stronger” is just that Poe is Poe. Also, the story requires that Roderick end it all because as a man he maintains the future of his line and house. It doesn’t matter as much that a woman carries on the name because of the dilution in blood. Also, Ligeia has to topple the second wife in order for the story to be more dynamic, and Poe like.

    Secondly, the importance of external elements tie into Labovian theory of orientation: There must be a progression of stages that all good story telling must follow (or completely divert from) in order to pass on and be immortal in essence. Orientation describes the context of the situation in order for there to be a coda that is satisfying, even if the end is dark. Poe has a tendency of doing a good at this.

    Sex and death was pretty much explained in your description on how it denies progeny and how the fall of the house is both metaphoric and physical, in “The Fall”. Also, it intensifies the problem and gives more substance to the craziness of the narrator and a reason to include opium in the “Ligeia”

  25. I do see the theme of strong wills in both stories. Ligeia’s presence and aura is stronger, more memorable, and more substantial than Rowena’s. Ligeia was smarter than other women, in the narrator’s mind. Ligeia was “passionate, wise… idolatrous”, in that time she was all the dominant adjectives one could use for a female without overstepping her role in society. Ligeia portrayed a “more than womanly abandonment to a love”, she was masculine in the one way that she was allowed to be and in turn the narrator idolizes her for she is beyond all other women. She wins. Roderick is physically stronger and angrier than Madeline. Anger fuels will stronger than any other emotion. Madeline became extremely ill. She was weaker in many ways than Roderick. Madeline’s illness and physical demise are described. The mood builds as Roderick becomes angry that his twin is capable of such weakness. He doesn’t want to see that in himself. It disgusts him. Death seems to be a theme that ends Roderick’s problem and only confuses the narrator in Ligeia. I think that death in Ligeia is idolized and envied, as in the best go first and in The Fall of the House of Usher I view it as a sign on fallibility. Sex is seen as a representation of power, passion, and love in Ligeia and a representation of naiveté and willingness to lose survival in Usher, almost with a vampirism to it.

  26. There are obviously parallels between these two stories. I think both of these stories were more about a battle of wills. Ligeia had such a will to live even in death, that her spirit killed the narrator’s new wife Rowena. As for Roderick and Madeline, I think that Rodericks obsession with Madeline’s purity and wanting to keep it intact just consumed Madeline.

    The House of Usher itself as Kirby said is an external thing that represents the internal of the characters Roderick and Madeline. I also think the white dress Madeline is wearing represents her purity, and the blood on it represents what happened to her.

  27. The external in these stories seems to hold a lot of symbolism. For the house of usher, it’s falling upon itself says a lot to the end of the story and helps finalize the imagery of the family and the house falling apart for the final time. For Roderick, his will kept him alive for as long as it did. He was holding on for as long as he could. Will is brought forth in both stories through the resurrection of Madeline and Ligeia. Both characters will overcame there death.

  28. The inner conflicts of Roderick and Ligeia can indeed be seen as a battle of wills, seeing as how the other two “combatants” are different halves of the same person. The wills of Roderick and Ligeia win the conflict in the end because each of them have given in to a part of their “self” that has been constantly nurtured since their childhood, making it much stronger than the other half of them that hasn’t been nurtured nearly as often.
    Another sign of external appearances being symbols of internal states of mind is when the House of Usher is described as having drapes/curtains pulled over all of the windows during the daytime, a detail that is a symbol that Roderick is afraid of anything that offers warmth and comfort. In both of these works, setting plays a pivotal role in providing symbols for the psychological status of the characters.
    The concepts of death and sex seem to be intertwined in the fact that the female characters of the story are the ones that suffer for being objects of purity and grace whereas the men that are dark and corrupted survive to see the future.

  29. Poe’s similar descriptions of the two characters, Ligeia and Roderick, give us the idea of ideal people – a best friend, and a best wife – so that we are more in tune with disturbances to their inner peace, especially Roderick.

    His descriptions of Roderick’s outer demeanor give exact descriptions of what is going on in his mind:

    “. . . although asuredly, a strange alteration had, during the last few minutes, taken place in his demeanor. From a position fronting my own, he had gradually brought round his chair, so as to sit with his face to the door of the chamber, and thus I could but partially perceive his features, although I saw that his lips trembled as if he were murmuring inaudibly. His head had dropped upon his breast–yet I knew that he was not asleep, from the wide and rigid opening of the eye, as I caught a glance of it in profile. The motion of his body, too, was at variance with his idea–for he rocked from side to side with a gentle yet constant and uniform sway.”

    Of Roderick’s demeanor, Poe illustrates the mental collapse of his close friend as he prepares himself for the sight of his twin sister Madeline. By Roderick’s composure alone we already know how this story is going to end, save the collapse of the entire house. The collapse of the Usher family is, by this point in the story, all too clear.

    I do not see the tales as a battle of will, and even after reading your analysis of the text, I must disagree with your basis for reasoning as I never got any indication that the main characters wanted these women gone earlier than they left them.
    It has also not occurred to me that sex and death are related in the works. I’ll try to wrap my responses to these questions up in a single response:

    I imagine, that if there is such a connection, then sex is connected to the death of the love we have for each other (as all too often does that love we thought we had for a person disappear almost immediately after sex). But even this connection escapes me as I search for it throughout tonight’s readings. It is a stretch but the undeniable similarities in the revivals of Ligeia and Madeline certainly demonstrate the tragedy of all the feelings of loss that comes with the death of a loved one. In many dark dreams I have experienced the return of my dead mother only to understand what a nightmare such an occurrence would actually be – that to wish for such things is a fallacy that brings with it scores of terror, disappointment and deprivation. But I guess I am really failing to make a sexual connection. It’s not a bad question, I just can’t read into it and for that I am sorry.

  30. I can see where it is a battle of the will’s and sexes between the two stories. The battle of the sexes is more so in the Usher story though. I don’t think that Roderick wins out in the end though. The house is demolished as the narrator is walking away from the house, and Roderick is still inside it. Roderick also dies in the end. I guess you could say that Roderick still wins, because even if he died with the house collapsing he was still able to save his sister’s purity once she died. Now that Roderick is gone, the line of Usher’s is gone, and I don’t know if that is a win out in the end. In Ligeia I can see where the narrator wins out. His second wife wasn’t good enough for the narrator. The narrator still constantly calls out for his first wife, she “comes back”, and then it looks like the second wife has taken the image of Ligeia. Presto, the narrator wins.

  31. Another example I see of the external reflecting the internal is found in Berenice. There, the narrator is haunted by Berenice’s teeth, which showed when she smiled. Berenice was described in contrast to the narrator as happy and joyful. That she could smile, even near death, is testament to her internal state. It is that very emotion that the narrator goes after when he digs her up and pulls out those teeth.
    This external reflecting the internal reminds me of what Thoreau was saying about being who you are and not putting on a show. It also reminds me of what he and Emerson talked about in terms of vision and perception.

  32. I find it interesting that Poe has an obsession with women that die and somehow come back to life. The story of Ligeia was quite interesting, i think that she return due to her will power of not wanting to be dead and also the narrator refused to let her go. After she died he became addicted to opium and quickly married someone else who also becomes ill. When his new wife becomes ill I think this brings up a lot of old feelings for the narrator and he beings to think of his wife again, then the thoughts become increasingly overwhelming to suppress and he ends up suffocating his new wife in order to liberate his dead wifes spirit. so in the end i think that Ligeia won due to her husbands will power

  33. In a way I believe that you could say that there are battles of wills in the two stories, but how real are they? In “Ligeia”, the coming-to-life of his first lost love Ligeia and her spiritual take over of the body of his second lost love Rowena is, as far as we know, an opium induced hallucination. I suppose, however, that the reality of the situation does not alter the purpose of the conflict in the story as written by Poe. The point he is trying to make is that the author never let go/got over his first love, which is why he tried to bring her back and why literally and metaphorically is taking the place of his last love. In “The Fall of the House of Usher”, there is a battle of wills between all three characters, I believe, both internal and external. I believe that there is a dominance struggle between Roderick Usher and his sister Madeline; Usher buried her alive on purpose so that she would eventually actually die and so the name of Usher could die with both of them. The tables are turned when Madeline momentarily wins the upper hand and claws her way out of her coffin to come find Roderick and the narrator, and she seems to take Roderick down with her as she finally collapses on him. All three characters seem to struggle with internal battles for the maintenance of sanity, Roderick with his mental issues and his internal conflict about letter the house of Usher die out with him and his sister. The narrator struggles to keep sanity after spending so long a time in a place where normalcy seems to flee. And Madeline must have gone through unrecorded internal battle when she decided what to do about the fact that she had been buried alive. Again, we have no proof from the narrator that all of these events really happened, but the point is that Poe used them to deliver important, deeper, metaphoric messages about his characters and stories.

  34. Poe is my all time favorite writer because of his hidden agenda in his writing. The battle between the two wills in each of these stories is overpowering and forces the character to realize something about themselves that they did not know before. Rodrick and Ligeia both come out on top and overpower their opposing wills in the end because they are ultimately stronger. The forces rising against them also have a lot to do with the opium induced state they are in. The drug causes more of an extreme battle in their heads causing the outcome to be more of an obstacle to overcome than if they had not been on the opium.
    I think the forces these characters battle in both stories represents just how strong the human mind can be. Our minds are capable of doing incredible things and it can get us caught up in unrealistic dangers. However, when you are able to overcome the unrealistic dangers and see the truth in front of you, the darkness can disappear as Poe tries to express in these stories.
    The link between sex and death ultimately gives the reader a grasp on the seriousness of the story, the dark and ominous tones. It gives a much darker side to sex than we are used to.

  35. In the two stories sex and death are linked because they are both ways of expressing power over someone. Roderick uses death to control Madeline. Ligeia uses sex/sexual attraction to express power over Rowena. Ligeia also uses death as a way of expressing power over the narrator. In both stories the concepts are linked through their uses as a means of control and power from one character over another character.

  36. 1. I do think the conflict between Ligeia/Rowena was a battle of wills. Yes I think it was made up by the narrator’s hallucinations but, I see it as a battle of who wanted to live as the wife and carry on with the narrator. It was who was more capable in his mind.
    2. An example of internal and external would be the internal want for Madeline to die so that Roderik can have them both die without leaving the name. The external portion of that would be Roderik putting her in the coffin to die and her coming back.
    3. The only way I could see death and sex being intertwined would be in how all of the women die still pure. The men did not want them to be seen in that different light and wanted them to die as their pure beautiful selves.

  37. Sex and violence are commonly linked because they are mutually “pornographic”, in that they evoke similar emotions within the reader — strong emotions that drive them forward. THe two are almost mutually exclusive. Poe uses his stories to push the limits of what is acceptable for the mind. He constantly playing strikes on his reader to make them think; that is his main goal. This sort of thinking he wants his reader to do reminds me of Emerson and his idea of “ma thinking”. Like the Transcendentalists, Poe believes that literature should be an expression of man thinking. He is creating the new literature of the time; the neo-classics that define an era. Sex and violence are the defining principles of this literature and Poe is able to weave the two themes together without creating a distinctly horror story or romance. He incorporates the use of opium, “superhuman energy”, and bending the mind to embellish the principles in classic literature and redefines the term for this period. These are all pornographic details which draw the reader in.

  38. I do believe in the battle of wills between Ligeia and Rowena, as well as the effect that is caused by the narrator smoking opium. Ligeia in my opinion was just a stronger person from solely the descriptions, with the black hair and black eyes, just seems stronger in general than the description of Rowena. The true battle is within the narrator’s mind. He loved both of the women in the story but at the end of the day his first true love was Ligeia and i believe that is why she was the focal point of the story as well as the one to reappear in the story.

    The house in “the fall of the house of ushers” is in my opinion a representation that in many situations not making changes, in this situation, leaving the house, can be harmful to a person. Both Madeline and Roderick never leave their estate and both grow extremely ill. The family, just like the house does not have an a bright future. As the brother and sister grow ill, the house also begins to break down with cracks and other damage. This story has less of a battle of wills because it is man vs. woman and in the time of the writing the man wins out most of the time. Roderick although unfit to make decisions decides to leave his sisters body in a tomb in the basement of the house. It is clear at this point in the story that not even with death can either Roderick or Madeline escape from the house that is harming them.

    Both stories have a major theme that is the death of women. Ligeia, Rowenda and Madeline all die with a close male figure by there sides. In both stories though, woman are shown as being strong, coming back from the dead. The stories have very similar plot lines and similar details but the stories differ in the sense of a love story and a horror story.

  39. I love that Poe’s agenda is very often about mourning the loss of women in his character’s life, which could translate into the loss of the women in the author’s life. But, I like that these two stories focus on the women coming back into the mourner’s lives. Also, the women come back and wreak havoc, which I find intriguing. Poe likes to make powerful, dark women. I think in both stories, the battle of wills is won by the women. In Usher, Madeline (whether a ghost or actually her) successfully scares the crap out of Roderick, which after burying her alive, he rather deserved a bit more in my opinion.

  40. There is most certainly, a battle of wills taking place between Rowena/Ligeia and Roderick/Madeline. But of two completely opposing natures. The conflict between Ligeia and Rowena is an almost imaginary one, because despite the narrators drug induced stupors, Ligeia is dead when Rowena is alive. The battle between them is over the love of the narrator and Ligeia wins that battle hands down. He undoubtedly loved her more than Rowena, and that is why he refused to let her go, ultimately killing her and bringing him Ligeia in her place. His will power could be analyzed as well as a testament to the undying nature of his feelings for Ligeia, even in death. Roderick and Madeline were just so strange, Roderick especially and unfortunately he won the battle of wills with his sister. His selfish need to “protect” her purity led to her death at his hands and the subsequent hording of her body and weirdness than resulted.

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