Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” is one of the best-known classical examples of Gothic horror in literature. The story, delivered by a first-person narrator, retells his experiences when visiting an increasingly hypochondriac friend Roderick Usher, who lives a largely solitary life in his familial estate due to a medical condition. The narrative voice perspective is critical in relaying the gloomy, dreadful aspect of the House of Usher and its pallid owner, whose nervousness and wariness start to affect the unnamed narrator himself. If he had an iPhone with him, he would have most likely tried to mitigate the unnerving and oppressive atmosphere of the mansion by listening to music. “Hotel California” by Eagles would be his likely choice for more reasons than one. The gentle guitar riffs would be well-suited not to agitate Roderick’s keen senses, and the lyrics would resonate with both Roderick’s voluntary confinement and the narrator’s nervousness due to the barely audible sounds at night.
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Roderick’s Hearing and Guitar Music
One reason why “Hotel California” would be particularly well-suited to the narrator’s circumstances in the story is the music used in the song. As the story mentions, Roderick suffers from a hereditary disease – a peculiar condition of the auditory nerve that grants him a painfully acute hearing. This results in most kinds of music being unbearable to his ears, apart from “certain effects of stringed instruments” (Poe). This is the reason why Roderick limits his musical exercises to improvising on the guitar in order not to overload his keen senses. Since the narrator refers to himself as Roderick’s “best and indeed only personal friend,” he would not have listened to something that could cause pain to Roderick (Poe). Moreover, the latter’s superhumanly acute hearing would have ensured that he heard the music even if the narrator only listened to it through ear pods. With this in mind, “Hotel California” would be a perfect fit for the situation. Its quiet, gentle guitar riffs would not overload the keen hearing of the mansion’s owner, and the narrator could think that, should Roderick overhear it, the song’s soothing sound might even benefit his overstrained nerves.
Prisoner of One’s One Device
Another reason why the narrator would have likely listened to “Hotel California” as the story progressed is that the song’s lyrics would have resonated with his thoughts. It soon becomes apparent that, while Roderick lives in his isolated manor due to the peculiarities of his medical condition, this is not the only sign of the place. The character holds an adamant belief that the old mansion as a whole and its disparate elements have a sentience of their own. Moreover, he postulates that they exert an “importunate and terrible influence which for centuries had molded the destinies of his family” (Poe). As such, Roderick’s self-confinement speaks of his gloomy fatalism as much as it does of his medical condition. Considering this, the line “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device” would resonate strongly with the narrator reflecting on Roderick’s situation as well as his own (Frey and Felder 37). The song would provide a thematically fitting musical background for the narrator’s reflection about his friend’s self-isolation in the gloomy mansion and his own willingness to remain with Roderick within the oppressive halls of the House of Usher.
Finally, the narrator would have also most likely used “Hotel California” to muffle and drown the barely audible sounds that alarm and frighten him during his last night in the House of Usher. As the narrator lies sleepless in his bed, he is continuously haunted and alarmed by the “certain low and indefinite sounds” just at the edge of his perception (Poe). He attempts to shake the feeling off by pacing through the room – and listening to music would also come in as a handful of distractions. Once again, the lyrics of “Hotel California” would make it a suitable pick for the situation. The lines such as “There were voices down the corridor, / I thought I heard them say” would help the narrator to convince himself that he imagines the sounds he hears (Frey and Felder 11-12). Thus, the song would briefly contribute to soothing the narrator’s nerves, which should be one of the strongest urgings he feels during the story’s climactic night.
In short, if the narrator of Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” had an iPhone at hand, “Hotel California” by Eagles would be a likely pick to listen to during the events of the story. First of all, as a gentle-sounding guitar ballad, it would not have impacted Roderick’s painfully acute hearing as a different kind of music would. Apart from that, the liens about being a prisoner of one’s own device would most likely resonate with the narrator’s ruminations about Roderick’s self-isolation or his own willingness to endure it along with his friend. Finally, the theme of hearing imaginary voices, which is quite prominent in “Hotel California,” would help the narrator to convince himself that the unnerving sounds are also merely a figment of his imagination.
Frey, Glenn Lewis, and Don Felder. “Hotel California.” AZ Lyrics, Web.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The Project Gutenberg, Web.
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