"The Wife of Usher's Well" is a typical folk ballad. It uses all of the standard characteristics in some way. In this essay, I will analyze the plot and theme of the story within the ballad. I will then discuss the characteristics that make the poem a ballad.
The ballad begins with a woman who lives in Usher's Well and has three healthy sons. She "sent them o"er the sea" for a reason not suggested by the poem, and we are to assume that her sons died when it says "her three sons were gane" and "her sons she"d never see." The boys" mother then wishes that "the wind may never cease, Nor fashes in the flood" until her sons come home in "earthly flesh and blood." One may interpret this wish to be a spell.
She seems to get her wish "When the lights are lang and mirk" on Martinmass, and she has a feast prepared "Since my three sons are well." What she does not realize is that they must leave with the morning light because if "we be missed out o" our place, A sair pain we maun bide." This statement can be interpreted that they have come back from the afterlife to satisfy their mother's wish but are only able to stay while it is dark, and it is the major shocking aspect of the story. .
At the end of the poem, the youngest of the three brothers says goodbye to his mother, his land, and "the bony lass, That kindles my mother's fire." The lass (girl) may be a woman that he was in love with or simply a maiden of the house. The plot conveys the overall theme that when calling on the supernatural like the mother does with her wish, you may get results, but they may not be what you expected.
The story of the wife of Usher's Well is told in a mixture of narration and monologue of different characters. This method of telling the story allows for the reader to use his or her imagination when reading the part of the narrator who is objective and impersonal. The first person to speak is the mother of the boys when she makes a wish that her boys would come back.