How does Poe use setting as a Gothic element in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “William Wilson,” and “The Tell Tale Heart”? The American Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849) has been celebrated as one of the important and innovative re-interpreters of the Gothic fiction and he makes use of setting as a central Gothic element in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “William Wilson,” and “The Tell Tale Heart”. Setting is the most characteristic element of the Gothic fiction which normally includes dusty halls, shadowy landscapes, and whispering people and the stories by Poe illustrate the significance of setting as a Gothic element. For example, Poe begins with an atmospheric description in the short story “The Fall of the House of Usher” in order to set the mood in the Gothic background. Thus, references to ‘a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year’, ‘clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens’, ‘passing alone, on horseback’, ‘singularly dreary tract of country’, ‘the melancholy House of Usher’, etc in the story clearly indicate that the author makes use of the setting of the story as a means to create the Gothic mood. A reflective analysis of the Gothic elements in this story confirms that there is an absolute emphasis on setting – both exterior (landscape) and interior (houses and mansion). The author makes use of the fungi covered front of the mansion to create the unusual setting of the story. Similarly, Edgar Allan Poe employs savage actions in the Gothic setting in the story “William Wilson” which tells about the life and crime of the narrator. The author obviously brings out the Gothic setting of the story when he refers to ‘large, rambling, Elizabethan house, in a misty-looking village of England’, ‘vast number of gigantic and gnarled trees’, ‘dream-like and spirit-soothing place’, ‘the stillness of the dusky atmosphere’, etc. “The Tell Tale Heart” by Poe is another significant example of how the author uses setting as a Gothic element. In this story, the dark, disconcerting location, death and decay, and the existence of evil and madness, etc bring about the Gothic elements and Poe’s works are celebrated for the exceptional use of medieval settings, shadowy atmospheres, and mysterious and violent actions.
Poe, Edgar Allan. Portable Edgar Allan Poe. J. Gerald Kennedy. (Ed). New York: Penguin Books. 2006.