Monday, March 17, 2014

Slice of Life - Day 17

Tomorrow my honors American studies students will begin discussing "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe.  I am rereading it tonight and developing discussion questions and ideas for ways to urge students to look at the text in a deeper way.  Ultimately, I want my students to be able to identify literary devices that Poe uses in his work and explain how those devices contribute to his purpose in writing the text. Before any analysis that answers this question, there are some basic components of the story that students need to understand. Below are the discussion questions and thoughts I've had reading the short story again. 

1. How does the narrator feel as he approaches the House of Usher? What diction does Poe use to convey the atmosphere of the setting? Why would Poe choose these words? 

2. For what reason does the narrator come to the House of Usher? What does this reason tell readers about the narrator? Close read the description of why the narrator visits Roderick Usher.  What is wrong with Roderick?  

3. What are the Ushers known for? 

4. Close read the passage describing the house beginning with "Its principle feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity..." Describe the house.  What details does Poe choose to provide that may foreshadow the end of the story? 

5. Upon entering the house, prior to seeing Roderick, what Gothic details does Poe provide?

6. Describe the physician that the narrator meets on the staircase.  Why might Poe include this minor character in the story?

7. Describe Roderick Usher's in your own words. Close read the physical description of Usher and analyze the diction that Poe uses to describe him.  What might Poe want readers to get from this description? Does the description sound like something familiar to you?

8. Close read Poe's description of Roderick's ailment.  What seems to be the problem? What does Roderick claim is the cause of the problem? What are some symptoms of Roderick's ailment?

9. What does Roderick claim is the connection between is malady and his house? Is this connection present in any of the text prior to this revelation? If so, where?

10. Roderick claims that there may be an additional radon why he is sad...what is the reason? 

11. How does Poe describe lady Madeline's entrance into the story? Why would he describe it in such a way?

12. What is wrong with lady Madeline?

13. What do the narrator and Roderick do to pass the time?

14. Why would Poe allude to Carl Maria Von Weber's music and Johann Heinrich Fussli's paintings when describing Roderick's talents? 

15. The narrator describes one of Roderick's paintings.  How does he describe it? What does the pianist tell about Roderick's state of mind or his preoccupations? 

16. Poe includes his poem "The Haunted Palace" in this story as one of Roderick's song creations. How is this "song" a mise en abyme? Why would Poe use it at this point in the story? How does the song contribute to the mood of the story? 

17. If the House of Usher is a symbol, what is the meaning of the symbol? How does the inclusion of the mise en abyme support the meaning of the symbol?

18. What does it mean when the narrator says that Roderick believes in the "sentience of all vegetable things?" What evidence does Roderick give to legitimize his belief? What is Roderick's assertion about the house?

19. What happens to lady Madeline? 

20. What does Roderick decide to do with Madeline and why?

21. Reread the funeral procession paying particular attention to imagery.  What is Poe's goal in this section of the text? 

22. How does Roderick act after Madeline's passing? How does Roderick's behavior affect the narrator? 

23. How does Poe develop the mood of the story after Madeline dies?  If his goal is to develop a feeling of terror in the reader, what does he do to achieve this? What details does he include? What dialogue is expressed? 

24. Describe the story of the Mad Trist.  How is it a mise en abyme? What does it tell us about the text as a whole?

25. What does Roderick claim the two have done? 

26. Close read the description of lady Madeline's return. Identify words that Poe uses to create the mood.  

27. What does the narrator do after lady Madeline finds Roderick? 

28. What happens to the House of Usher? How is it symbolic? 

29. In what ways does Poe foreshadow impending doom? 

30. Reread "Sonnet--to Science".  What is the theme of the poem? How does the theme connect to "The Fall of the House of Usher"?

31. Why can the narrator conquer the house but Roderick cannot? How does the narrator conquer the house? 

32.  What tense does Poe use in the story? How does the tense help with his purpose? 

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