In the short story, "The Fall of the House of Usher," by Edgar Allen Poe, setting is used extensively to do many things. The author uses it to convey ideas, effects, and images. It establishes a mood and foreshadows future events. Poe communicates truths about the character through setting. Symbols are also used throughout to help understand the theme through the setting.
Poe uses the setting to create an atmosphere in the reader's mind. He chose every word in every sentence carefully to create a gloomy mood. For example, Usher's house, its windows, bricks, and dungeon are all used to make a dismal atmosphere. The "white trunks of decayed trees," the "black and lurid tarn," and the "vacant, eyelike windows" contribute to the collective atmosphere of dispair and anguish. This is done with the words black, lurid, decayed, and vacant. The narrator says that the Usher mansion had "an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven." It was no where near being beautiful, holy, or clean. He uses descriptive words such as decayed, strange, peculiar, gray, mystic, Gothic, pestilent, dull and sluggish to create the atmosphere. Poe's meticulous choice of words creates a very effective atmosphere in the story.
Another important way Poe uses the setting is to foreshadow events in the story. Roderick Usher's mansion is on example of this. There is a "barely perceptible fissure" in the masonry. It is a small crack in "The House of Usher" which the narrator defines as "both the family and the family mansion." This foreshadows an event that will ruin the house and the family. The fissure divides the house. Roderick and Madeline die, destroying the family. The narrator says there is a "wild inconsistency between [the masonry's] still perfect adaptation.and the crumbling condition of the individual stones." This is also symbolic. The stones represent the individual people of the Usher family, and the entire mansion stands for the whole family.