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Literary Device: Diction is the word choice of an author within their written works, especially in terms of word usage intended to clarify, characterize, or make a text‘s message effective. Example: The bitter, rotten fruit swelled sickeningly in the heat, oozing a gruesome pulpy pus as the afternoon sun baked it into further fever. Examine the italicized words in the sentence above and determine what tone this charged diction creates. What two adjectives would you use to describe the tone?
from “Fall of the House of Usher” Edgar Allan Poe • During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know how it was - but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible.
from “Fall of the House of Usher” Edgar Allan Poe • I looked upon the scene before me - upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain, upon the bleak walls, upon the vacant eye-like windows, upon a few rank sedges, and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees - with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveler upon opium; the bitter lapse into everyday life, the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart, an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. What was it - I paused to think what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? It was a mystery all insoluble…
“Fall of the House of Usher” – Author’s Purpose • How would you describe the overall mood or tone of the excerpt above? List at least two adjectives. gloomy ominous _______ and _______ • Examine the diction used to describe several major elements from the passage. Record your findings in the table below: Quality of Weather & Time of Day House of Usher& Surrounding Landscape General Mood & Atmosphere …dull, dark… …the melancholy House… …insufferable gloom… …soundless day… …the clouds hung oppressively low… …the shades of evening… …the bleak walls… …the vacant eye-like windows… …few rank sedges… . . . utter depression of soul… …an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart… . . . an unredeemed dreariness of thought…
“Fall of the House of Usher” – Author’s Purpose • How does the diction support the author’s tone within the excerpted opening paragraph of his short story? Through Poe’s word choice, the author not only establishes the ______________________ overall dark mood and tone of the short story – his diction ______________________ clearly additionally establishes a sense of setting, atmosphere, ______________________ and provides a window into the starting mindset of the narrator. ______________________ • What is the author’s purpose in establishing this type of tone at the beginning of his short story? (Hint: What do most horror and mystery authors need to quickly establish and why? ) By providing an immediate introduction into the macabre, Poe ______________________ establishes the necessary darkened tone in which the reader ______________________ expects to encounter terrifying and exceptionable happenings. ______________________
Answer the essay question below: • In Edgar Allan Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher”, the author creates a suspensefilled landscape saturated with a sense of gloomy mystery. Using direct text evidence and compelling commentary, write a well-organized response examining how the author’s diction dictates the tone of the opening portion of the short story. Red – Major Writing Task Blue – Minor Insights/Instructions