Frederick’s Death In ‘The Fall Of The House Of Usher’: What Happens In ‘The Pit And The Pendulum’ Story?


We believed that Frederick Usher would be a bit different from the rest when we saw him for the first time in The Fall of the House of Usher, but it turned out that he was the worst of the lot, and he was capable of stooping to such lows where even his siblings couldn’t imagine going. Though his other siblings might have felt a bit insecure about him, considering he was the first child of the Usher family, we don’t believe that Roderick ever saw him as the repository of the hopes and dreams of the empire.

Probably the only thing that Roderick adored about Frederick was his daughter Lenore, whom the former believed to be as pure-hearted as his first wife, Annabel. Roderick never considered his son trustworthy, and he believed that he was pretty much capable of betraying him for his own vested interests, as treachery was in his blood. Roderick blamed himself for how his daughter, Tamerlane, and son, Frederick, had turned out. They didn’t have the values he wanted them to have, and he was aware that only he was responsible for them. Frederick and Tamerlane used to stay with their mother, and in order to get back at her, Roderick, in his arrogance, made sure that he used his money to allure them and make them favor him. Frederick and Tamerlane got whatever they wanted, and years later, Roderick realized that it was the worst decision that he had made and his children neither had the caliber nor did they deserve to be the heirs of such a huge empire.

Spoiler Alert

Why Did Frederick Usher Torture His Wife?

Morelle Usher was invited to an underground rave party that was being organized by Prospero, aka Perry Usher. We don’t know if Morelle had indulged in any sort of extramarital affair before that, but that night, she knew that something was going to happen, which, rationally and morally, she should not indulge in. But probably she was frustrated, and seeing the kind of man Frederick was, it could have been possible that she sought attention and affection from other people. But things didn’t go as Morella had planned them, and something bizarre happened at Prospero’s party. The party was supposed to happen in one of the abandoned buildings of the Usher Empire, and Prospero had planned that water would be sprinkled on his guests, but he didn’t know that the water tanks had toxic waste stored in them.

Roderick had filled those tankers with acidic waste material because he wanted to escape sanctions, but he didn’t know that his corrupt activities would one day ruin his own empire. Prospero died, but Morella somehow managed to stay alive, though she suffered third-degree burns and had to be kept in an intensive care unit until Frederick decided to bring her back home. Frederick had realized, after seeing the CCTV camera footage, that Morella had intentions of committing adultery, and he knew that had everything gone as per the plan, Perry would have used the entire situation to his advantage.

Frederick told his daughter Lenore that he was taking Morella home because he wanted her to not be uncomfortable in the hospital environment, and he had already arranged for the best specialists, who, he said, would be visiting her and keeping her under supervision. Lenore had no reason not to believe her father, but eventually, she noticed that no specialist was coming to their home, and Morella’s health was not improving. Frederick was using a drug to keep Morella in a coma-like state where, though her mind was conscious and she was able to see and perceive everything, her body became numb, and she couldn’t even move a limb. The poor woman was making progress, and she had even started speaking, but Frederick made sure that nobody came to know about it.

Whenever Lenore came, she saw her mother lying in bed, and she didn’t understand why her health was not improving. She had doubts about her father, and she knew that he had been using drugs, but she felt helpless and couldn’t do anything about it. The poor woman at times, in The Fall of the House of Usher episode 7, begged her husband to not drug her, but Frederick didn’t show any sympathy. The fact that she had the intention of cheating on him overpowered everything else and transformed him into a monster. Frederick had tortured the lady enough, but it seemed like he was still not satisfied. He very poetically said that if one didn’t want to be constantly brutal, then they would have to be sufficiently brutal that one time and get done with it. Frederick, in a gut-wrenching moment, took pliers and extracted Morella’s teeth. The poor woman writhed in pain, which was evident on her ramshackled face, but what was not evident was that Frederick, by doing so, had sealed his own fate.

Why did Verna give Frederick a painful death?

Verna, the personification of Death in The Fall of the House of Usher, saw what Frederick had done with Morella. Verna said that generally, she didn’t interfere much in the life of a person, and she let them approach Death in a natural manner, but after she saw the entire pliers episode, she lost her temper, broke her own rules, and made sure that Frederick overdosed on the stuff he was using to intoxicate Morella mixed together with cocaine. When Frederick went to their family-owned building where Prospero’s party had taken place, he asked his people to give him a few minutes as he quickly wanted to go inside and check something before the place was brought down. He wanted to disrespect the memory of Prospero and tell him how he had gotten the better of him, but just then, at the end of the Fall of the House of Usher, he felt that he was losing his balance, and before he could do anything, he fell down on the ground. Verna told Frederick, in his last moments, that she could have resorted to some other means and methods and probably given him a much less painful death, but then she saw him bring Morella home and make her life a living hell. The swinging iron bar kept oscillating like a pendulum, and Death toyed with Frederick until, finally, she took his life.

Thematic Similarities With ‘The Pit And The Pendulum’

Uncertainty is what makes Death even more frightful, but a majority of us live delusional lives, often forgetting that we are mere mortals and that this journey could end anytime. Generally, we feel that fear only when there is an imminent threat, something that the narrator in Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, The Pit and the Pendulum, felt after he was given capital punishment by the so-called robed judges. Thanatophobia is the fear of Death, and the narrator in Poe’s story probably suffered from it. He was saved, unlike Frederick, after the Spanish Inquisition ended and the French government intervened. There is another story written by Edgar Allen Poe, titled Morella, in which the titular character is bedridden, and her physical health is deteriorating with every passing day. Morella’s husband is enchanted by her intellect, and he knows very well how much influence her spiritual theories have on him. He is scared that a day will come when he will no longer be able to stand her because of her constantly deteriorating physical body. He wants her to die, and his wish is eventually granted, though in her last months, Morella cursed him and told him that his days would be spent in misery.

Now, obviously, there is no similarity when it comes to the events of these two stories, but thematically, the characters of the Netflix series The Fall of the House of Usher felt something similar during the course of the narrative. That trepidation caused by one’s own doom slowly approaching them was something that was felt by Frederick in his last moments when he went inside his property and saw the pendulum swinging over his head. He didn’t kill Morella, but he wanted something worse than Death for her. The brutal manner in which he treated Morella convinced Verna that Frederick should be given the most painful Death ever.

The fear-stricken eyes watched the pendulum oscillate over his body, and he couldn’t move, just like Morella couldn’t after he drugged her every single day. It was poetic justice, and though Morella didn’t curse him explicitly, like the protagonist of Poe’s story, she would have wanted an exactly similar fate for him. When Verna finally approached Frederick, and she started giving him reasons why she was condemning him to such a fate, we came to know that even Frederick had that anxiety of Death, the fear that one day he would die like an inconsequential individual and that he wouldn’t be remembered, and his legacy wouldn’t be celebrated. We believe that the world would eventually come to know the kind of monster he was, his sins would be known to all and even if Frederick had done any good in his life, it would all be forgotten and buried under the rubble of his own monstrosity.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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