Negative Adjectives in The Fall of the House of Usher
Abstract: Edgar Allan Poe as the practitioner of short stories argues the preconcieved unity in this kind of literary form should be realized by the way of every detailed desciption, even each word. The Fall of the House of Usher which is intepreted by the previous scholars in the aspects of word repetition, syntatic arrangement, text structure and so on, will be analyzed in this article from the lexical level, mainly from the negative adjectives which emerge frequently in this short story in order to explore their function and reveal the effect of art anticipated and pre-established by the author.
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And it also could be regarded as a very appropriate example to put his theory about short stories into practice.
According to Smith (1909), the great contribution by Poe to the literature comes from his constructiveness and his structural art. After analyzing this short story, Peoples (2004:182) claims that the repeatedly appearance of the “alliterative compound adjectives in the story gives the illusion of depth and keeps readers’ attention on the mirror-like surface of words” and the composing of this short fiction is regarded as the building of one real house which is the manifestation of Poe’ philosophy of architecture. Pahl (1989) equates the stones in the House of Usher to the individual words and their perfect adaption of parts to the syntax of sentences, the careful arrangement of words.
The previous scholars and critics have completed fruitful investigation to The Fall of the House of Usher from the aspects such as the repetition of the words, sentence arrangement, and structure of the text and so on. This article will explore it from the lexical lever in order to present how the unity of effect is established by the employment of adjectives, particularly, the negative ones which numerously occur throughout the whole story.
1 The brief introduction of the short story
North Carolina Professor C. Alphorns Smith (1909) once described the work habit of Poe as “a patience and persistence worthy of Washington…a husbandry of details that suggest the thriftiness of Franklin… a native insight and inventiveness that proclaim them of the line of Edison.” 1 Although an unusual patriotic favor is easily found in this desciption, critics from the nineteenth to the present century generally have characterized Poe as the image of the engineer who has definite interest in intellectual games and detection (Peoples, 2004). In The Philosophy of Composition (1846), Poe fosters the image of himself as a mechanic who could inspire emotion without really feeling it. Also in the article, Poe emphasizes an intensified effect upon the reader with a unified plot, which could be treated as his manifesto about his understanding of short story. In his opinion, all elements of the every part of the literary artifact including the short stories should match well with the preconceived effect and must contribute to the unifying effect of the whole(1846).
According to Horn (1989), the negative adjectives, usually in the structure of im- in- un- and –less, are derived from the general adjectives without prefix and suffix and the former group usually connotes the meaning of negation and passiveness. It is the employment of the negative adjectives that helps to present the atmosphere of sorrow and melancholy prevailing from the very beginning to the ultimate paragraph in this short story. “A childhood companion of Roderick Usher, who has not seen him for many years, is summoned to the gloomy house of Usher to comfort his sick...