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512.232 Eckhard: Literary Studies Proseminar:

―Strangely Familiar: Representations of the Uncanny in American Literature‖ WS 2010/11

TERM PAPER

Live Burial in Edgar Allan Poe‘s ―The Fall of the House of Usher‖ and ―The Premature Burial‖:

Tomb or Womb: The Freudian Approach to Live Burial in Poe

Gaj Tomas, 1012871

Handed in: February 4 th , 2011

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

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2. Freudian‘s Approach to Reading Poe: Live Burial

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2.1. The Longing for the Womb in ―The Fall of the House of Usher‖

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2.2. Lady Madeline Usher as Freud‘s Uncanny Muse

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2.3. The Return of the Repressed and Breaking the Moral Order

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2.4. Repressed Wishes for Death in ―Premature Burial‖?

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3. Conclusion

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Bibliography

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1. Introduction

There is a certain clever rhetoric from the buried protagonist at the introduction of Edgar Allan Poe‘s tale ―Premature Burial‖:―The boundaries which divide Life from Death, are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and the other begins?― (Poe 322), as he finds himself ―buried‖ what he believes to be a coffin, as the story starts to intrigue intriguing us with one of the most terrifying and arguably uncanny experiences live burial.

The narrator is an obsessed man, a walking dead man, who eventually saves himself from his terrifying experience and exaggerated fear, but not from the uncanny feeling. It is as much dreadful as when we as readers perceive the buried-alive Lady Madeline Usher breaking the vault steel door of her coffin, uttering eerie sounds and in appearing bloody at her brother Roderick‘s door in Poe‘s even more gruesome tale, ―The Fall of the House of Usher‖. The protagonists too are quite different, as are the representations of the motive of live burial in both stories one hand we deal with, as this essay will try and prove, an evident incestuous relationship and perhaps Roderick‘s certain repressed wishes, and on the other hand the exaggerated, almost satiric general fear of a seemingly cataleptic state and death. Yet in both stories, the buried alive return, and along them the repressed returns. Both accounts intimidate us, undoubtedly perform a Poe-like effect on us as readers, a great deal we ascribe to Poe‘s terrifying premature burial. Yet why would we choose to argue about the terrifying in the premature burial? Is there more to a general obsession with death in that the narrator in ―The Premature Burial‖ goes through all the details to prevent an inside-the-coffin experience? The opening line of the story certainly stands out of the satiric resolution of the story. Similarly, Madeline Usher is surely not just a walking dead seeking revenge, with a supernatural strength that can break down steel vault doors and, falling down, kill her brother? Uncanny it undoubtedly is, but is there more to it then our mind first perceives, something behind the terrifying experience? There is an approach that offers a deeper analysis. In his famous essay on the ―The Uncanny‖, published in 1919, psychologist Sigmund Freud toys with the idea of the experience of live burial. What we consider, as he says, one of the most terrifying uncanny element in human consciousness, present in our two tales as well, Freud attributes to a ―psychological transformation of another phantasy which had originally nothing terrifying about it at all, but was filled with a certain lustful pleasure the phantasy, I mean, of intra-uterine existence― (Freud 15). In an attempt to understand more about his theory, we need to look deeper in his analysis to try to puzzle out what the psychological

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transformation is, and what he suggests lies behind our superficial understanding of the horror of live burial, and what kind of a ―intra-uterine existence‖ relates to our protagonists, if at all. The aim of this essay is therefore quite direct our approach does not deal with the attempt to interpret author‘s intention in general. The narrator of ―Premature Burial‖ might be able to rationally account for his experience after he is saved, however irrational his behavior may be. Whether some supernatural, magical, or as some critics argue, or just another form of Poe‘s exaggeration of death morbidity – for the purposes of this paper it does not matter. Our discussion will not dwell on the supernatural element nor will it try to irrationalize the rational. In this paper I invite a specific Freudian reading, rather than generic overall impression of the uncanny of the live burial. The psychoanalytical theoretical approach will try to deal with the narrator‘s idea of boundaries between life and death as terrifying transformation of the buried narrator in ―Premature Burial‖ and something strangely familiar in our conscious as well as a certain wish, Roderick‘s longing for an utopian-like state of a mother‘s womb, repressed in burying Madeline. Poe‘s application of the uncanny element will leads us to conclude that what Freud is to the theory, Poe is to practice. Furthermore, the paper calls for specific aspects in Freudian‘s approach, which he regards to the uncanny theme of live burial, with an aim of proving that Poe‘s characters are much more a psychologically constructed ideas, who exhibit certain psychological traits that go in account with Freud‘s idea of live burial – connecting heimlich and unheimlich, female genitals and intra-uterine existence as a psychological transformation. Addressing this issues of Poe‘s motive in the two tales, the Freudian literary reading confirms that there is more to being buried alive, than meets the uncanny eye, that is, subconscious mind.

2. Freudian‘s Approach to Reading Poe: Live Burial

There are certain aspects in Freud‘s essay on ―The Uncanny‖ that intermingle with each other and form the basis for his interpretation of live burial as the uncanny element, such as a hint to the intra-uterine existence, homely feeling of security and repressed sexual wishes. Examining their relationship will help us to investigate how we the whole approach applies to an interpretation Edgar Allan Poe‘s two tales. Initially, Freud explores the origin of the word uncanny is debated upon, going to great lengths to uncover the ambiguity between words in different languages. What he ends up is an unexpected conclusion that combines the uncanny and something pleasant (Germ. unheimlich, heimlich), as the same term: ―among its different shades of meaning the word heimlich

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exhibits one which is identical with its opposite, unheimlich. What is heimlich thus comes to be unheimlich‖ (Freud 3). In addition, Freud says that unhemlich is in some way or other a sub-species of heimlich. This would then suggest that what is considered eerie, strange, unfamiliar, scary, relates closely to something familiar, ―Friendly, intimate, homelike; the enjoyment of quiet content, etc., arousing a sense of peaceful pleasure and security as in one within the four walls of his house‖ (ibid.). From this conclusion we relate directly to the what in this essay concerns us most. Discussing the role of live burial, Freud explains that although many people are terrified at the thought, or phantasy of being buried alive, this feeling is simply a ―psychological transformation of another phantasy which had originally nothing terrifying about it at all, but was filled with a certain lustful pleasure the phantasy, I mean, of intra-uterine existence― (ibid. 15). Connecting the familiar and unfamiliar, heimlich and unheimlich in a singular unit, Freud suggests that in his psychoanalytical basis, what scares us in live burial is a psychological transformation a wish to come back to that ―friendly, intimate, homelike‖ (ibid.) state of pre-birth existence, to put it bluntly, to be reunited with the mother. By extension of his debate of what lies behind that phantasy of burial, Freud also states that ―It often happens that male patients declare that they feel there is something uncanny about the female genital organs‖, which coincides with his initial explanation, that ―This unheimlich place, however, is the entrance to the former heim [home] of all human beings, to the place where everyone dwelt once upon a time and in the beginning‖ (ibid. 15). He does not leave the question open, but concludes in with an arguably typical analogy:

―There is a humorous saying: ―Love is home-sickness‖; and whenever a man dreams of a place or a country and says to himself, still in the dream, ―this place is familiar to me, I have been there before,‘ we may interpret the place as being his mother‘s genitals or her body‖ (ibid. 15). His final sentence substantiates our attempt of trying to investigate what uncanny there is about live burial in Poe‘s tales, especially regarding his concluding sentence: ―In this case, too, the unheimlich is what was once heimisch, homelike, familiar; the prefix ‗‗un‘‘ is the token of repression.‖ (ibid 15). Our study will observe these three aspects, not simply for the reasons of traceability in Poe‘s accounts, but with an aim of connecting the three aspects in a circular movement that develops in the stories if the wish for returning to the female genitals into the intra-uterine existence of what is pleasure, has something uncanny and does the wish of it conflict with the moral. In Freud‘s psychoanalytical assumptions, the uncanny would not be that frightening nor scary as we generally associate with live burial seems, but would awoke a strangely

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familiar repressed memory from the childhood, that is, a pre-childhood state, that of ―intra- uterine existence‖. This theoretical framework will serve as a starting point for our discussion as we try to search for the interpretation in the works of an author that seems to have been innocently acquainted with the whole idea and that seems to be obsessed with death, and live burial – Edgar Allan Poe, for he is known to present ―portrayals of body mutilations, smothering, drowning, entombments of the living, the wasting away and rotting away of bodies, situations emptied of human dialogue, [that] are calculated to re-evoke in the reader the archaic fears of childhood‖ (Kaplan 45). Poe‘s use of burial before death as a is common, as beside the two famous tales: ―The Fall of the House of Usher‖, published in 1839, and ―The Premature Burial‖, from 1844, it is contained in well-known tales such as Ligeiaand Berenice1 . Precisely the different application of the live burial makes it possible to consider Poe a Freud‘s right hand. ―The Fall of the House of Usher‖ might not directly remind us of Freud‘s initial statement on the uncanny, but the initial lexical blend that connects pleasant and the uncanny in a friendly and homelike state is quite intriguing in studying Poe. The people that he buries return from a grave, whatever that grave my stand for. The motives for such an outcome relate back to Freud as Poe too seems to revoke some experiences or archaic fears of childhood. Where in ―The Premature Burial‖ the narrator questions us, what are the borders between life and death, and in the ―Fall of the House of Usher‖, those lines are yet even more distinct, as Roderick Usher confuses us with his state and his sister Lady Madeline‘s. It might often have been a woman that dies and comes back in Poe‘s tales, yet Poe brings Madeline back because of Roderick Usher. The uncanny feeling dominates in the two tales, yet Roderick and Madeline strikingly reminds us of our theoretical reference assuming that a wish for intra-uterine existence would suggest a circular life movement, and eliminate the justification of the uncanny feeling. The burial not only symbolizes the deep structure which has interested Poe within the human consciousness, probably in a way following Freud‘s assumption a rather general one that ―To many people the idea of being buried alive while appearing to be dead is the most uncanny thing of all‖ (Freud 14), as one of Poe‘s most recurrent themes death. And, at that initial reading, Poe seems to stop where Freud begins. He deepens the live-burial: If uncanny is coming close and becoming pleasant, that is, ―Friendly, intimate, homelike; the enjoyment

1 cf. Mckee, John D. ―Poe‘s Use of Live Burial in Three Stories‖. The News Bulletin of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association. Vol. 10, No. 3 (May, 1957). JSTOR. Web. 14 December 2010.

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of quiet content, etc., arousing a sense of peaceful pleasure and security as in one within the four walls of his house‖ (ibid. 3), how does Roderick‘s burying of Madeline relate to it? She is the return of the repressed in Roderick. Similarly, the narrator of ―Premature Burial‖ comes to a terrifying realization that he is inside a coffin. Poe‘s tales, that arguably first and foremost have in mind to intimidate, agitate the reader to feel fear, for what many critics claim his responsibility. In trying to find that combining factor, and see whether Poe too subconsciously applies those repressed wish in his tales, we need to look no further than this psychoanalysis by Freud. The analysis of ―The Fall of the House of Usher‖ and ―The Premature Burial‖ helps us discover that there is something repressed; heimlich or unheimlich. In that ―token of repression‖ (ibid. 14), Poe seems to be an applicant of Freud‘s theoretical ideas.

2.1. The Longing for the Womb in ―The Fall of the House of Usher‖

The narrator arrives to the House of Usher perplexed by the overall eerie feeling in the House. He meets Usher, and observes him, only to find out that ―he suffered from a morbid acuteness of senses‖ (Poe 78). Even the physical characterization allows us to view Roderick as a person of disturbed senses, which, as we will see later, moves on to the psychological judgments. He himself claims he is struggling with ―the grim phantasm, FEAR‖ (Poe 82), and that he will lose this struggle, that he ―shall perish‖ (ibid.), and he seems rather convinced. Does he just suspect that he is on the verge of death due to the imminent death of his last companion in the long Usher family line, his twin sister Madeline? Furthermore, Roderick goes on intriguing the narrator, or rather, attributing his condition to his long beloved sister‘s, conceding that ―Her decease, he said with bitterness which I can never forget, would leave him, the hopeless and the frail, the last of the ancient race of the Ushers‖ (Poe 82) and at precisely that moment Madeline passes the hallway, not saying a word, as some sort of a terrifying sight, existing primarily as an thought in Roderick subconscious, who then shoves his head in his hands unable to stand the sight of her. The narrator cannot account for that feeling, as we begin to sense some uncanny feeling that Madeline seems to be causing. Her disease had ―baffled her physicians‖ (ibid. 83), as the narrator explains, the state of catalepsy which makes her prone to appear to be dead. Together with his friend, Roderick Usher tries to repress the realization of Madeline‘s state, that could, he says ambiguously, destroy him. Along the same lines, Louise J. Kaplan studies the tone of the story correctly pointing out that ―there are always the shadows of the unseen,

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the uncanny, the unknowable, implications of some darker secret that is being kept from us‖ (46) something uncanny in Madeline‘s appearance and invisibility. Moreover, the narrator tries to help Roderick recover by reading poetry, discussing art, claiming that ―If ever a mortal painted an idea, that mortal was Roderick Usher‖ (Poe 84). We hold onto that thought as it turns out to be more explicit than we might first imagine. The paintings represent something more, something hidden, something behind the illusion of the reality, as the opening French epigraph suggests. One of painting on the wall of that mortal artist Usher reveals it more explicitly: ―A small picture presented the interior of an immensely long and rectangular vault, or tunnel, with low walls, smooth, white, and without interruption or device(Poe 84). Roderick‘s dark tunnel lies on the wall as much as in his subconscious:

―no torch or other artificial source of light was discernible; yet a flood of intense rays rolled throughout, and bathed the whole in a ghastly and inappropriate splendor‖ (ibid.). As Roderick buries Madeline in a vault, we realize his artistry is more than illusion. This reminds us of another aspect in Freud‘s work, that a great deal of uncanny lies in ―something that we have hitherto regarded as imaginary appears before us in reality, or when a symbol takes over the full functions and significance of the thing it symbolizes‖ (Freud 15). Even the poem that they recite, concerning the Hunted Palace seems to utter a certain meaning. The middle stanza, the estate claims ―And, round about his home, the glory/ That blushed and bloomed/ Is but a dim-remembered story/ Of the old time entombed‖ (Poe 84). In the following course of events, Roderick informs the narrator of Madeline‘s death as something quite anticipated, telling him he will preserve her corpse. The medical reason for that are genuine, due to her state, as he does not bury her underground but keeps her in a vault in the main building. Yet if he is sure she could still come back, why does he entomb her within the steel vault, that she would not be able to open? The weight produced an unusually hard sound when it closed. Narrator recollects now how strikingly similar the twins are, and that there has always been something among them that kept them together, and her evil smile after death. Roderick seems to be in a hurry. As if he is trying to get rid of a bad feeling that is troubling him, he is quick to dispose of Madeline‘s body, still breathing of life, behind a steel vault door. After burying Madeline, Roderick seems to have buried something indiscernible with him. He changes, his physical, and it will become evident, more his mental traits. Let us observe the narrator clever parallel he draws, concerning Roderick‘s state that seems to be passing on to him:

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There were times, indeed, when I thought his unceasingly agitated mind was laboring with some oppressive secret, to divulge which he struggled for the necessary courage. At times, again, I was obliged to resolve all into the mere inexplicable vagaries of madness, for I beheld him gazing upon vacancy for long hours, in an attitude of the profoundest attention, as if listening to some imaginary sound. It was no wonder that his condition terrified-that it infected me. (Poe 88) Whatever it is that Roderick burying alongside, changes him. ―But all this must be in Usher‘s mind‖ (Ketterer 197). True, Roderick is agitated, listens to sounds he cannot will not hear, dwells on something so deep and powerfully striking that he cannot share with his long time friend who he called to help him. Roderick starts to repress something he cannot explain or control, but something evident to the narrator, especially after entombing Madeline, saying that ―there was a species of mad hilarity in his eyes --an evidently restrained hysteria in his whole demeanor‖ (Poe 90). There‘s something uncanny in the state of Roderick, buried deep inside.

Like a baby Roderick ―rocked from side to side with a gentle yet constant and uniform sway‖ (ibid. 92). And later, no matter the sound and the noises coming from the vault, that takes shock the narrator, Roderick is calm before the storm: ―I leaped to my feet; but the measured rocking movement of Usher was undisturbed‖ (ibid. 94). He is surely anticipating his fate, rocking in a chair, a harmonious motion of gentle baby-like state, as if his mother is rocking the chair. Death is coming, and the circle of life might close, yet Roderick does not move. He is anticipating it and not running away from it, as he hears Madeline escaping the tomb, before he finally loses his struggle with fear: ―Now I hear it yes, I hear it, and have heard it‖ (ibid.). Interestingly, his acute senses, now lie in supernatural strength, for he hears Madeline in the basement of her tomb, returns to him, making Roderick fall ―victim to the terrors he had anticipated‖ (ibid. 95). Roderick is not only aware of his coming death, but he awaits for it, he wishes it. Roderick knows burying Madeline is the cause for that, and he struggling with fear, but not running away from it. He thought he would perish and perish he did, anticipating it. Freud‘s psychoanalysis teaches us that the return of the repressed is what creates the uncanny feeling. Surely Madeline is the one repressed in a coffin who returns, but what is the repressed that returns with her bloody body? The narrator of the other story intrigues us with the statement that the boundaries between life and death are vague, but Freud helps us if not determine, then postulate on the potential boundaries in our minds, if they exist. Roderick hears voices, feels disturbance, and connects to the hunted palace from the Mad Tryst. But

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Madeline is not a walking dead-man seeking revenge, at least not to Roderick. She carries with her something repressed by Roderick, as Ketterer explains, ―What Madeline overcomes are things that keep her from her brother: the door vault, the door of the chamber where Usher awaits, and the physical space between them‖ (94). Madeline might be, as Kaplan claims, in Roderick‘s mind, and her role might be rather symbolic, and breaking of the powerful vault might also be. It is not the supernatural strength of Madeline but of her as a wish, idea, combined with her incestuous relationship to Roderick, that she comes back from the dead, from the repressed, to haunt Roderick. We have drawn a few parallels to Roderick‘s condition. He struggles with fear, burying Madeline seems like a way out of something, but she is not dead, while he seems to in decay, anxiously anticipating her to come back. Roderick might be projecting his death into Madeline. Yet the incestuous relationship might suggest some repressed sexual desires in Roderick that he tries to bury, but fails, and perishes. The wish however, is not yet clear to us. Looking at Madeline Usher standing at the door will not provide us with the answer. As Roderick is unable to bury what Madeline seems to represent, we need to look deeper, on a Freudian level into Madeline as that personified idea, to understand what the return of the repressed means.

2.2. Lady Madeline Usher as Freud‘s Uncanny Muse

―Aside from the brief appearance of the valet and physician, the mansion is invisible and uncannily quiet. Madeline utters not a word‖ (Kaplan 49). She seems to be a flat character, and her uncanny appearance is the only communication with Roderick and us as readers. But on the other hand, we can argue that she is not a persona, but a personified idea, a hidden wish. Roderick hints at that his condition might be caused by Madeline‘s, whatever cataleptic, indefinable it is. We have seen that Roderick‘s main struggle seems to be arising from within his coffin, not Madeline‘s. Or if she is a symbol of a wish, then her coffin is Roderick‘s inner one, locking her close to his home, as if she might return, moreover, anticipating her return, or rather what symbolically she may represent. Poe does not try to hide it, and there is no doubt anymore that she is returning, there is only the question of when and what it represents. Roderick‘s twin sister still exhibits ―a faint blush upon the bosom and the face‖ (Poe 89), while he starts decaying, as if a part of him dies with Madeline buried. And if life and death seem to be in a conflict, it is true then as Robinson claims that ―Roderick‘s entombing

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his twin sister alive suggests conflicts between death-wishes and the life-urge within him― (69), as it will turn out that the death and life are changing sides. The blushing life, the buried, and the repressed Madeline returns, and with superhuman strength not to symbolize her strength but rather to emphasize a certain impossibility of repressing that urge within Roderick. This takes us back to Roderick‘s introduction, when he himself states that he will ―soon perish‖ in a struggle with Fear. Out of that fear, he is burying Madeline so that he would solve the problems of decaying himself. In a Freudian reading, then, once Roderick‘s death-wish has been postulated it becomes accepted evidence for his wanting Madeline to die, however dear she may be to him. In this view, his entombing her above ground suggests that the issue has not yet been wholly resolved within him‖ (Robinson 70). He may think he does not bury her beneath a steel vault door, because he wants her to return, not initially at least. But on a subconscious level, he is aware of it. It trying to explain what that death-wish might arise from, Cohen argues that Roderick‘s ―will to live clashes with Madeline‘s will to die and with his own conscience. Madeline forces her way from the vault and confronts him as a suppliant begging for death‖ (271), yet is she the one who is begging for death and him trying to live, breaking out and coming to her twin brother? In another Freudian approach, yet he claims that it may have been that Roderick projects his fear of death onto Madeline, his twin sister, whom he shares ―sympathies of a scarcely intelligible nature‖ (Poe 89). But as he anticipates it, does not bury her in a cemetery, as he does not wish to get rid of her and the feeling, he suggests there is a deep psychological wish that maybe death is not something that he wants to avoid. Of course, he buries his wish in form of his cataleptic sister, out of the fear that the race will extinct. But the House of Usher must perish, and Roderick ―will perish‖ (ibid. 82), because he wants to do so. He is denying the undeniable and postponing the desirable. The ―un- in uncanny is repression‖ (Freud 15) of Roderick‘s desires, that he tries to bury. In our carefully and in detail attempt to elaborate on the death-wish in Roderick in Poe‘s disturbing tale from the Freudian point of view, we must again turn to follow his aspect that the uncanny of live burial is a psychological transformation of something that was not at all terrifying, was once pleasant, homelike, familiar - an intra-uterine existence(Freud 15). Connecting the two postulates, if ―un- in uncanny is a prefix of repression‖, then Roderick tries to represses his subconscious wish to reach that motherly womb-like state, an intra- uterine existence of conclusion of life after and before death. This struggle with repression he calls fear, and the fact that he will perish signals where he wants to be.

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That is among other things why he still hears Madeline coming: ―Now I hear it – yes, I hear it, and have heard it‖ (Poe 94), yet dares not speak. He does nothing, but he struggles, waiting for Madeline, to be able to reach that state. Roderick‘s sister‘s return stands for his repressed wish to die, the return of the state of intra-uterine existence, or rather his longing for it. Again, Robinson claims it might be the only way out: ―The only possible motivation for Usher's killing his sister is a desire for his own death, since the mansion has molded the destinies of his family, not merely of himself, and Roderick's fate is too inextricably woven with his sister's for him to take her life without endangering his own‖ (70). Without endangering his own life, he would not be able to reach that intra-uterine existence. Madeline might be more than a character, an idea, or what Freud would use as a tool for the uncanny live burial. As Kaplan concludes in her discussion of the issue, Madeline‘s return represents ―the return of Usher‘s repudiated desires and the granting of his forbidden wishes‖ (46), and the forbidden wishes she stands for are Roderick‘s subconscious wishes for death, in a strange combination of fear and lust, that cause that longing for that mother-like comfort. In her studies on this problem of Madeline's return, Kaplan further investigates that ―Roderick‘s deepest and most frightening wish is to merge with Madeline, to be eternally united with her in some smooth womblike utopia where the rough realities of earthly existence would no longer disturb his piece(47), a piece where he would not have fear or decay, like the House does. Madeline is that intra-uterine existence he projects, she is the Mother. As he merges with her, the Freudian cycle is complete.

2.3. The Return of the Repressed and Breaking the Moral Order

Discussing the perverse strategy in ―The Fall of the House of Usher‖, Kaplan moreover argues that ―The protagonist, Roderick Usher, is an artist and the central conflicts concern the artist‘s ambiguous relation to the moral order‖ (51). If what is uncanny about the live burial is the longing for the mother womb, then we can certainly look at Freud‘s extension of this thesis in his famous essay, where he agrees that there is something uncanny ―about the female genital organs‖ (Freud 15), claiming that the arguably primitive instinct he is however, ―the entrance to the former heim [home] of all human beings, to the place where everyone dwelt once upon a time and in the beginning‖ (ibid.) (…) we may interpret the place as being his mother‘s genitals or her body‖ (ibid.). Arguing on the thesis that Roderick‘s wish for a mother-like womb, as discussed in previous chapters, we see Madeline as a representative of those incestuous wishes. But she is not just a symbol of the repressed,

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Roderick‘s forbidden wish, but also a tool for breaking the moral order. We might find it useful to observe her through this uncanny aspect as well. If the primitive feeling of the uncanny in woman‘s genitals are uncanny, then acting upon it is contrary to our moral existence, as Kaplan explains in the essay, where she discusses Poe‘s later work on the Perverse: ―which prompts us to act solely ‗for the reason that we should not‘‖ (45). She claims furthermore that Poe applies this perversity in the tale, saying that ―From a psychoanalytical perspective, perversion is not only not simply an aberration of the sexual life, or merely some irresistible insidious to the moral order. Perversion is a complex strategy of mind, for regulating negotiations between Desire and Authority‖ (Kaplan 46). The bipolar conflict seems to lie underneath the relationship between Madeline and Roderick. In ―The Uncanny‖, Freud does not dwell in detail on the moral boundaries, yet the analysis shows that to return to some presence of womb, as Roderick longs for it in the incestuous relationship to Madeline, for this to evolve and a form of uncanny to exist the breaking of the moral order is necessary. Undertaking the action and breaking the moral order finally leads to Roderick‘s repressed wish to be reunited with Madeline. This whole act is perverse, and negotiations between ―Desire and Authority‖ Kaplan mentions are broken. Precisely this strategy confirms the return of the repressed, or rather it conditions it: ―Roderick‘s break with the moral order is connected with his need to repudiate the reality of Madeline‘s sexuality‖ (ibid. 53). Poe or Roderick seem to be in a search for the way not to break the moral order. He buries Madeline while she is still alive. Kaplan also argues that this entombment serves as a fetishistic device, trying to blend the differences, and repress his feelings towards Madeline. Originally, Roderick does seem to have some moral boundaries, some authority that might prevail his desire, and stop him from, on a psychological level, breaking the moral order once again. Madeline‘s return signalizes the loss in that fight for the moral order. He might still be saved, yet he fails because his repressed wish overcomes Madeline arises, and the fetishistic device breaks together with the moral. Roderick‘s wish of the intra-uterine existence, Desire, that is stronger than the moral code, Authority. If burying Madeline reveals, as Kaplan claims, a fetishistic device, along with the incestuous wish for Roderick, then ―the symbolic structure of a sexual fetish would tell us about the unconscious mental life of the fetishist, so the symbolic structure of Roderick‘s art reveals his unconscious forbidden wishes‖ (ibid 54). The role of art, as the editor points out in her essay plays a greater role, because Roderick‘s struggle also evident in his disillusionment with reality, as his paintings, and even the song they read clash with the reality. Freudian struggle in Roderick goes on much deeper.

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The statements lead us to see that Kaplan seems to be alluding to Freud in her Perverse strategy much more that she makes allows herself explicitly. She seems to come close to this Freudian‘s interpretation of intra-uterine existence, claiming that fetish is ―a disguise, a cover- up we might say, for a man‘s secret and forbidden unconscious wishes – to merge with woman, to be her, to never leave the Garden of Eden of childhood where sacred mother and innocent child are united for eternity‖ (ibid. 60). Forbidden and repressed in burial, the thoughts of intra-uterine existence become more evident in her concluding words. By using a fetish of the coffin, Roderick Usher tries to ―disguises the sexual difference, thereby granting simultaneously an earthly passion of the Heart and the exalted spiritual wish to be reunited with the mother‖ (ibid. 60). So burying Madeline, Roderick would undoubtedly try to save the moral boundaries that still may exist in this reality. We can draw distinctions between the reality and illusion as moral versus perversion. The art helps him express his true repressed desires, as he symbolically paints Madeline‘s coffin. With regard to that, Kaplan argues that ―The Fall of the House of Usher reveals the terrible consequences of an aesthetic of pure gratification, when that aesthetic no longer engages the resistance of the moral order‖ (61). Once Madeline brakes out of the vault, there is no hope for a moral order anymore, if there ever was. The temporary attempt of reconciling with it, burying it deep inside Roderick‘s vault fails, as ―Madeline returns from her tomb to grant her brother‘s forbidden wishes. The twins are reunited in death, merged as one for all eternity‖ (ibid.). Their death may as well symbolically represent two things that are intervening with one another, that seem to be repeating and in another way connecting Poe and Freud: breaking of the moral order by incestuous line, and by allowing the repressed to return.

2.4. Repressed Wishes for Death in ―Premature Burial‖?

Without leaving the thoughts that ―The Fall of the House of Usher‖ leaves us, we turn to Poe‘s other famous tale dealing with the same issue. ―The Premature Burial‖, that may have a more direct and scientific approach to the theme of being buried alive, is written in a slightly different tone. Among the rare interpretations of the tale, critics dwell not long on the idea that lies beneath it. In ―The Rationale of Deception in Poe‖, Professor David Ketterer includes the historical background of the time and adds it to the interpretation of the story, claiming that it is an ―inverted hoax‖ (90). As the story‘s rather comical relief in ending might itself suggest, the author may have presented a satire on the general nineteenth century fear of

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death, caused by the unexplainable catalepsy, and the accounts that the narrator claims to be non-fictional certainly add to this idea, when contrasted to the resolution of the tale. What Ketterer seems to disregard, however, is the immediate, non-satiric moment of the burial that goes on in narrator‘s mind. We are not questioning the overall idea of the story and a sort of morality message that seems to be concluding the tale. The narrator might have gone through all the laughable measurements or suffered from an irrational fear of death, in some ways as Roderick, but his experiences in the coffin and undoubtedly real and uncanny, for he does not know that he lies in a shipwreck. The opening paragraphs and lines about death arguably stand not merely, for the purposes of the eventual hoax, but as genuine as they are upon the first reading, so they should stay genuine despite the ending. Introducing a Freudian reading to ―The Premature Burial‖ will certainly offer us a perspective of that what the psychological transformation of the long forgotten but strangely familiar really might be about, precisely from the narrator‘s point.

He claims that ―To be buried alive is, beyond question the most terrific of these extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality‖ (Poe 322), and we do not doubt it, but play along. Before the narrator starts to list the non-fictional accounts of those extremes, he is deeply interested, or rather deeply afraid of crossing that line, in a state of catalepsy, which, worth mentioning is also an explanation of Madeline Usher‘s state. Indeed, we agree that what can be more terrifying than ―The unendurable oppression of the lungs- the stifling fumes from the damp earththe clinging to the death garmentsthe rigid embrace of the narrow housethe blackness of the absolute Nightthe silence like a sea that overwhelms…‖ (Poe 328). The narrator is truly and undoubtedly becomes obsessed, and himself prematurely buried in his obsession: ―My fancy grew charnel, I talked of worms, of tombs, and epitaphs. I was lost in reveries of death, and the idea of premature burial held continual possession of my brain. The ghastly Danger to which I was subjected haunted me day and night‖ (ibid. 330). Of course, this feeds the ―hoaxers‖, criticizing the narrator‘s overall obsession of death in life. Yet the idea of the premature burial reminds us again of Freud‘s definition of live burial as something uncanny, and we are poised to search for Freud more than Poe seems to do, and return to the psychoanalytical or more statement from the beginning of the story: Where are the boundaries between life and death? In his theory on the uncanny, Nicolas Royle argues that ―‘The Premature Burial‘ is in some respects more rigorous even more rigorously Freudian than Freud himself allows to be in ‗The Uncanny‘‖ (147). Freud says return to the mother womb, is uncanny transformation of

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something that was originally not uncanny. Does ―Premature Burial‖ then as seem to represent a rather forced return to the womb, where there is no wish for so, despite the obsession? Does he subconsciously long for death, as we have postulated Roderick does? The measures he takes are interesting, because he is convinced that he will end up in a grave, and fights hard to repress that event. Unlike the obsession in Roderick, the narrator seems to be terrified to death from the eventual entrapment, as his obsession would suggest. On a subconscious level, the narrator is Roderick‘s counterpart. Where Roderick seems to be repressing the longing for the mother-womb as he anticipates Madeline‘s return, the narrator in ―The Premature Burial‖ has no such a wish, no longing to return to the womb utopia, but he is fearfully aware that it may come true. As he wakes up from his cataleptic state, ha proclaims ―There arrived an epoch – as often before there had arrived in which I found myself emerging from total unconsciousness into the first feeble and indefinite sense of existence‖ (Poe 333). Right before he realizes he is in a grave, he reminds us of that strangely familiar intra-uterine existence, however it tends to end later. We may be mock readers, but for the narrator the situation is dreadful. Yet he is desperate to hold on to life. He has spent time thinking about death more than of life, in a way becoming a similitude to a walking dead man, something like Roderick Usher. This however does not necessarily mean that this will determine his fate similar to Roderick. However, the main difference between the two lies within their inner selves the narrator does not seem to possess an internal conflict, not a moral one, nor or submerged sexual wish. One could claim we are forcefully trying to fit Freud into Poe, when critics have argued that the intention was quite different. But Nicholas Royle the author of ―The Uncanny‖ invites us to look more deeply, more rigorously, and ―engage critically with a well-known Freudian psychoanalytic tradition of reading Poe as a means of elucidating what is meant by Freud‖ (Royle 147). In the coffin, something is strangely familiar to our protagonist, but that kind of utopia that becomes quite the opposite a dystopia. Triggering the memories of the childhood, subconscious, the scene reminds us of that feeling of mother womb existence, but it takes us, and the narrator, not long to realize it is only a physically and psychologically transformed one. From a feeling of catalepsy, he awakes, realizing the horrors and reality starts screaming and kicking in the tomb. It takes place in narrator‘s mind, the fact that pleasurable feeling of initial comfort, now creates dread and conflicts with his wish to stay alive, as he seems to be walking on the line between life and death. The psychological transformation of the womb-like state is uncanny. The circle is closed again, but the narrator lives:

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The tortures endured, however, were indubitably quite equal, for the time, to those of actual sepulture. They were fearfully they were inconceivably hideous; but out of evil proceeded Good; for their very excess wrought in my spirit an inevitable revulsion. My soul acquired tone acquired temper. I went abroad. I took vigorous exercise. I breathed the free air of heaven. I thought upon other subjects of death. I discarded my medical books. (Poe 336) It seems that transformation has taken place in some form, for he is born again, with no traces of catalepsy: ―In short, I became a new man, and lived a man‘s life‖ (ibid.). To the question of subconscious and return of the repressed, the narrator draws an interesting parallel to that of Roderick‘s wish. At the end of the tale, he states that those wishes, or moral boundaries, if there are any are like demons that ―must sleep, or they will devour us they must be suffered to slumber, or we perish‖ (ibid. 336), as Roderick did.

3. Conclusion

Freud is generally credited with the idea of the Uncanny, his revolutionary essay postulates on different aspects of it, from animism, castration, animating the inanimate, to live burial, our central topic. In extension to this study, it would be quite interesting to analyze the other representations of the uncanny in the two tales, as it would cover significantly larger ground and yield interesting common areas. This essay however, focused on Freud‘s interpretation of what we as Poe‘s readers find most dreadful and common premature burial. Freud surprises us with his inverted logic, when he that being buried alive is a simple psychological transformation of another phantasy which had originally nothing terrifying about it at all, but was filled with a certain lustful pleasure the phantasy, I mean, of intra- uterine existence― (Freud 15). The careful analysis proves that Poe presents significant elements of those theories in ―The Fall of the House of Usher‖ and ―The Premature Burial‖. Starting from the initial statement of what there is uncanny in live burial, we have postulated our grounds for a Freudian approach to Poe. Searching for that friendly, homely, heimlich and unheimlich experience in the two different stories, we expand Freud‘s thesis through main aspects discussed in this essay: how entombment reflects the idea of longing for the mother womb, and that is the uncanny feeling in ―The Fall of the House of Usher‖, and it is the inner struggle, inner wish, that distinguishes it from the one in ―The Premature Burial‖. Writing on Poe‘s characters, Richard Wilbur claims that ―The Fall of the House of Usher‖ is a journey into the depths of self. (…) That inner and spiritual self is Roderick

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Usher‖ (108). The two protagonists are two opposite sides of the uncanny. Roderick Usher is a haunted man, fighting against moral order in form of illusion, art, conflicted by the inner struggle between desire and reason. He buries his sister Madeline, with whom he has broken the moral order in his incestuous relationship, trying to restore the moral order, and in that, he is repressing his true desires. In digging up those the repressed, we discover Roderick‘s subconscious death wish that furthermore fuels his inner conflict. In his struggle with fear, in his wish to reunite with the Mother, that is to reach the ―intra-uterine existence, Roderick perishes. He is Freudian hero. On the other hand, our discussion leads us to question narrator‘s state in ―The Premature Burial‖, as it demonstrates some similarities yet a striking difference to Roderick:

The conflict, i.e. the lack of one. The narrator is obsessed, and occasionally seems to be the dead among the living, yet he does not struggle within, has no repressed wishes, and does not long for that experience that Roderick does. He has no moral conflicts. Where Roderick‘s longing is evident and he reunites with death, the narrator had become ―a new man, and lived a man‘s life‖ (Poe 336). The Freudian reading of Poe is necessary, for often time it has seemed, that what Freud has theorized upon, Poe seems to be putting in practice, within these stories as well. From the stories, and from Freud‘s explanation of the uncanny, there is a hint of suggestion of a binary and circular form of life. We are brought to this world from the womb, only to strive near the end of our lives to return the repressed, of that ―Friendly, intimate, homelike(Freud 3). If, as Poe as the narrator dwells that are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and the other begins―(Poe 82)? Freud offers us a demonstration.

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Bibliography

Primary sources Freud, Sigmund. ―The Uncanny‖. < http://homepage.mac.com/allanmcnyc/textpdfs/freud1.pdf>. PDF file. [2011, Feb 2] Poe, Edgar Allan. Selected Tales. London: Penguin Books Ltd, 2007.

Secondary sources Cohen, Henning. ―Roderick Usher‘s Tragic Struggle,‖ Nineteenth-Century Fiction (December 1959). JSTOR. Web. 15 December 2010. Halliburton, David. Edgar Allan Poe A Phenomenological View. New Jersey:

Princeton University Press, 1973. Kaplan, Louise J. ―The Perverse Strategy in Poe‘s ‗The Fall of the House of Usher‘‖. New Essays on Poe‘s Major Tales. Ed. Silverman, Kenneth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Ketterer, David. The Rationale of Deception in Poe. Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 1979. Mckee, John D. ―Poe‘s Use of Live Burial in Three Stories‖. The News Bulletin of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association. Vol. 10, No. 3 (May, 1957). JSTOR. Web. 14 December 2010. Royle, Nicholas. The Uncanny. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2003. Robinson, Arthur E. ―Order and Sentience in "The Fall of the House of Usher"‖. PMLA. Vol. 76, No. 1 (March, 1961): JSTOR. Web. 15 December 2010. Wilbur, Richard. ―The House of Poe‖. Poe, a Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Regan, Robert. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1967.