"The Fall of the House of Usher,'' written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1839, is regarded as an early and supreme example of the Gothic horror story, though Poe ascribed the term "arabesque'' to this and other similar works, a term that he felt best described its flowery, ornate prose. Featuring supernatural theatrics, which critics have interpreted a number of ways, the story exhibits Poe's concept of "art for art's sake," the idea that a story should be devoid of social, political, or moral teaching. In place of a moral, Poe creates a mood "terror, in this case " through his use of language. This philosophy of "art for art's sake" later evolved into the literary movement of Aestheticism which eschewed the symbolic and preachy literature of the day "especially in England "in an attempt to overcome strict Victorian conventions. Because of his emphasis on style and language, Poe proclaimed his writing a reaction to typical literature of the day, which he called "the heresy of the Didactic'' for its tendency to preach. Condemned by some critics for its tendencies toward Romanticism, a literary movement marked by melodramatic and maudlin exaggerations, "The Fall of the House of Usher" was nevertheless typical of Poe's short stories in that it presents a narrator thrust into a psychologically intense situation in which otherworldly forces conspire to drive at least one of the characters insane. .
The narrator approaches the House of Usher on a "dull, dark, and soundless day." This house--the estate of his boyhood friend, Roderick Usher--is very gloomy and mysterious. The narrator writes that the house seems to have collected an evil and diseased atmosphere from the decaying trees and murky ponds around it. He notes, however, that although the house itself is decaying in pieces (for example, individual stones are disintegrating), the structure itself is fairly solid.