Poe's Stories

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Architecture Symbol Analysis

Architecture Symbol Icon
Some of the most classic motifs of Gothic Literature are architectural - castles, dungeons and gloomy, deserted places can create an expectation of mystery, murder and the paranormal. In each of these eleven stories, locations and structures surround and often facilitate the narrative events and play as leading a role as some of the characters. For example, in The Masque of the Red Death, the strange trail of seven atmospheric apartments, each decorated in a different color and with ominous billowing curtains and candles, traps the masked partiers in a circle of doom, allowing the figure of the Red Death to close them in. In other stories, it is a domestic house or a schoolroom that forces the enclosure and intensification of the characters’ suffering. And especially in The Pit and the Pendulum, the revelation of the size and shape of the cell, and its subsequent transformation, gives it a life of its own and represents the faceless cruelty of the Inquisition.

Architecture Quotes in Poe's Stories

The Poe's Stories quotes below all refer to the symbol of Architecture. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Poe's Stories published in 2006.
Manuscript Found in a Bottle Quotes

All in the immediate vicinity of the ship is the blackness of eternal night, and a chaos of foamless water; but, about a league on either side of us, may be seen, indistinctly and at intervals, stupendous ramparts of ice, towering away into the desolate sky, and looking like the walls of the universe.

Related Characters: Narrator (M.S. Found in a Bottle) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Architecture
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Poe gives us a flavor of his hidden impulses and desires--in other words, what he personally finds frightening. In the story, the narrator is aboard a ship that's slowly being sucked into a whirlpool. And yet all around the ship are huge columns of ice.

It's important to notice the claustrophobia of this scene. Even though the narrator is sailing on the ocean--i.e., a completely open place--he has the strong sense of being boxed in by these massive walls of ice. Confronted by the horror of compression and enclosure, death--or being sucked down by the whirlpool--is almost a relief. (In real life, Poe was terrified of being buried alive, and wrote dozens of stories on the topic. This story is an early sign of Poe's claustrophobia.)

The description of the icy walls is also a good example of the kind of Gothic "architecture" that haunts Poe's stories. Even when nothing directly supernatural or horrifying is happening, the setting itself usually suggests something sinister or beyond human comprehension. These icy columns are reminiscent of the Romantic idea of the "sublime" (an experience, usually in nature, of terror and awe at the vastness of existence), and were perhaps inspirational for the setting of Mary Shelley's classic work of horror and the Romantic: Frankenstein

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The Fall of the House of Usher Quotes

I know not 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.

Related Characters: Narrator (The Fall of the House of Usher) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Architecture
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

In this famous passage, the narrator of the story looks upon the House of Usher and immediately feels a sense of gloom and horror. The house has been the site of great misery in recent years, and here, Poe suggests that this misery is palpable--the house itself seems to record and radiate the emotions of the people who lived there.

The passage is a great example of Poe's Gothic style. The Gothic genre, popular in the 19th century, often hinges upon a big, intimidating house full of memories and mystery. The house is practically a character in the story, just as it is in the best Gothic novels. The house is like the "Greek chorus" of the story--both witnessing the events of the plot and elevating them to their emotional peak.

The Pit and the Pendulum Quotes

Looking upwards I surveyed the ceiling of my prison. […] In one of its panels a very singular figure riveted my whole attention. It was the painted figure of Time as he is commonly represented, save that, in lieu of a scythe, he held what, at a casual glance, I supposed to be the pictured image of a huge pendulum, such as we see on antique clocks.

Related Characters: Narrator (The Pit and the Pendulum) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Architecture
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the narrator becomes aware of his torture. In a dungeon, there is a painting of the figure of Time, carrying a large pendulum that resembles a scythe (a symbol of how Time must "reap" the human race via death). Although the narrator doesn't realize it right away, the painting of Time--and the very real, very sharp pendulum that he's carrying--will be the narrator's next form of torture. The pendulum is a symbol of the inevitability of death--just as time brings all human beings closer and closer to death, the pendulum threatens to kill the narrator, who is trapped in his Gothic torture-chamber, with increasingly terrifying force.

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Architecture Symbol Timeline in Poe's Stories

The timeline below shows where the symbol Architecture appears in Poe's Stories. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Ligeia
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
...be in their city by the Rhine and, with no lack of wealth, buys an abbey in a wild, remote part of England. The devastated appearance of the old building perfectly... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
But he can describe the bridal chamber perfectly. It is a pentagonal room at the top of a high turret, with a venetian glass window covering one of... (full context)
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
The major attraction of the room besides all these things is the drapery. The huge walls are draped with tapestries with... (full context)
The Fall of the House of Usher
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
...a grim day, when he comes across the House of Usher. The sight of the house fills him with dread for some reason. He calls this feeling “unsufferable” because it is... (full context)
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
...– so the name the House of Usher, has come to refer to both the building and the family itself. (full context)
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
The narrator of "House of Usher" notices the extreme age of the property, but that some parts are crumbling and others are fine. The overall structure seems to... (full context)
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
...physician, who has a half cunning, half confused expression. He is led into a huge room, whose windows were so high that they could not be reached. The narrator struggles to... (full context)
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
...especially related to the House of Usher – he feels that he cannot leave the building, and that the dilapidation and ugliness of its features has somehow affected his own condition,... (full context)
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
...the narrator of "House of Usher" of a strange belief that Usher held about his house: that the objects in it and the house itself are sentient, that they feel and... (full context)
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
...of "House of Usher" helps him to move the lady’s coffin into the dark, musty vault. This particular room is directly underneath the narrator’s sleeping quarters, and historically, was used to... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
...to bed and cannot sleep. He tries to believe that it is just the gloomy room and the swaying of the draperies that makes him feel like this, but he starts... (full context)
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
The narrator of "House of Usher" flees from the house, and through the storm. He sees a flash of light and turns back around. It... (full context)
William Wilson
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
William recalls his school, in a misty, Gothic village with shadowy avenues and a haunting church bell. He recalls the place with pleasure, but... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
The school house was surrounded by a thick wall. The children were permitted beyond the wall on Saturday... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The narrator reminds us of the awkward shape of the school building and all its nooks and crannies. Some of these little alcoves were turned into dormitories,... (full context)
The Murders in the Rue-Morgue
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
...Paris will be very valuable. So the pair live together, and the romantic but “grotesque” house that they can afford with their combined fortunes seems to suit their mood. (full context)
The Tell-Tale Heart
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
...the night, dismembering the body and taking up the planks and hiding everything below the room, so that there is no trace whatsoever of the old man. (full context)
The Pit and the Pendulum
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
...He knows he is condemned to death but doesn’t think they’ve put him in a cell to await his fate because he knows that the hangings of the auto-da-fees happen swiftly,... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
...the perimeter 100 paces. He finds it impossible to guess the exact area of the cell however, because the walls are jutting and irregular. He now aims to find his way... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
...one. He has heard about this kind of torture from the rumors of the Inquisition dungeons. He makes his way back to the wall, now imagining numerous other pits dotted across... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
...been drugged because he falls into a deathlike sleep. When he wakes yet again, the cell is visible from a light coming from somewhere. He can now see the full size... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
There has been another change in the room – the fiends and demons on the walls are now much clearer and brighter. The... (full context)
The Black Cat
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
...of "The Black Cat" and his wife were awoken by the sound of flames. The house was on fire. They escaped but they saw all their possessions go up in smoke.... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
On the fourth day, some policemen arrive to search the property, but knowing that his stowing place is perfect, the narrator of the "Black Cat" is... (full context)
The Purloined Letter
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
...of dust, and then the bedclothes and every item of furnishings, and then scrutinized the walls and surfaces of the house in the same way. They did this not just to... (full context)
The Masque of the Red Death
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
...hour, he gathers his friends and his knights and shuts himself away in an ornate abbey, which he designed himself. He has it fitted with everything they need to avoid the... (full context)
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
...height. But the Prince holds a fabulous masked ball, throughout the imperial suite, whose seven rooms are unusually laid out (fitting the Prince’s unusual taste) in sharp turns, so that you... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
...he is able to stalk right up to the Prince, and past him, through each room, to the violet room. Then the Prince, angry at his own cowardice, quickly follows the... (full context)
The Cask of Amontillado
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
...and responds that he himself is not busy. He insists they go to the narrator’s vault right away to see the wine. The narrator now changes his excuse and says that... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
They arrive at the narrator’s house, which is empty of servants, as the narrator of "Amontillado" had expected. He had told... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
They come to the entrance of a dark crypt. Inside the crypt is another enclosure, narrower, and three of its walls lined with human... (full context)