Napoleon’s Death In ‘The Fall Of The House Of Usher’: What Happens In ‘The Black Cat’ Short Story?


Mike Flanagan’s The Fall of the House of Usher tells the story of the Usher family’s downfall due to the legal proceedings against the pharma company that they own, Fortunato, and because of a good old deal with the devil that was done by the twins, Roderick and Madeline Usher. But while they were feeling the heat, Roderick’s six children from various marriages were actually biting the dust. With Prospero and Camille gone, it was Napoleon Usher’s turn. Napoleon was the coolest member of the family. If anyone needed drugs, Napoleon was their go-to guy. If anyone wanted to organize a secretive party that would include drugs, Napoleon was there for them. His main profession was gaming. No, he wasn’t a game developer or anything. He just bankrolled games and spent most of his time playing various kinds of games. Since his mind was oscillating between games and drugs, he didn’t quite care about the $50 million bounty that Roderick had placed on the alleged informant, and he kept partying until his final days.

Spoiler Alert

Napoleon Usher’s Vices

Napoleon Usher was definitely the most empathetic of Roderick’s children. He seemed genuinely heartbroken after Prospero’s death because he had a good rapport with him. Camille was the only one he opened up to, and Camille used to tell him as it was. But that doesn’t mean Napoleon was synonymous with the word “good” or “innocent.” Of course, it was a personal choice, and he didn’t care if anybody judged him, so we can and should judge him all we want. Napoleon’s first vice was adultery. He had a boyfriend, Julius, who loved him and was okay with his extravagant lifestyle. Yet Napoleon used to go behind his back and mess around with his female fans, who wanted to get some clout by getting on their knees for him.

The drug abuse was an issue, and when he mixed that up with his hatred towards cats (he probably hated all animals), he ended up killing Julius’ cat, Pluto. Instead of owning up to his mistake, Napoleon removed all evidence of the fact that he had butchered Pluto with a kitchen knife. He put up a whole act in front of Julius to convince him that Pluto had run away. Then he went to a pet shop and tried to buy a cat that looked exactly like Pluto. Verna posed as the shop owner, and she tried to get him to adopt or buy a cat that didn’t look like Pluto. I guess she was implicitly trying to make Napoleon say the truth to Julius. It would be up to Julius to forgive Napoleon for murdering Pluto in a drug-fueled rage, but Napoleon getting another cat for Julius would mean that he was not only truthful, but he cared for Julius as well. Napoleon didn’t heed the warning and took a black cat that Verna didn’t want to sell, thereby inviting doom to his house.

Why Was Napoleon Usher’s Death So Violent?

By the end of The Fall of the House of Usher, it was abundantly clear that the reason behind the deaths of the family members wasn’t a result of their vices. Roderick and Madeline had agreed to a deal where the Usher bloodline would come to an end as Roderick neared his death, and that decision sealed the fates of all his descendants. However, the nature of their vices definitely determined the degree of punishment they’d receive before dying. Napoleon was a liar and a murderer. Despite getting the golden opportunity to tell the truth, he covered himself in lies, i.e., the fake or maybe undead version of Pluto. Technically, the cat that Napoleon had brought into his house was a form that Verna had taken to torment him. It would scratch him all over his body. It even scratched his eyeball, which caused him to go partially blind, probably. It would put dead animals under his pillow, his gaming chair, and then all over his house. Napoleon called the physical version of Verna, assuming she could take the cat away.

Instead, Verna ramped up Napoleon’s physical and psychological torture by making it seem that the cat was in the walls. Determined to kill the cat, Napoleon wielded Thor’s hammer (not the literal one but the one from the Marvel movies, which was signed by Chris Hemsworth himself) and made a mess of his whole house. As a final joke, the cat perched itself on the balcony railing, and when Napoleon took a swing at it, he plummeted to his death. The cat, as well as the dead animals, vanished into thin air, thereby making it seem like he had died by suicide due to drug abuse. Napoleon was given a million chances to correct his ways and maybe die in a dignified way. However, his narcissism and habit of lying led him to an embarrassing end. I think it was hilarious that in Napoleon’s funeral picture, he was striking the “sigma male” pose, which served as a reminder of his hollow ego and raging sense of insecurity.

Napoleon Usher’s Arc and the Connections to ‘The Black Cat’ and ‘The Spectacles’

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat told the story of a man who loved animals. He happened to marry a woman who loved animals and lived with several pets, including a black cat named Pluto. The cat was the man’s best friend and accompanied him everywhere he went. But, over the years, the man’s behavior started to change as he resorted to drinking at every hour of the day. His wife’s as well as his pets’ attitude towards him changed drastically, but Pluto continued to be loyal to him. This somehow enraged the man, who takes a knife and mercilessly cuts off one of Pluto’s eyes. After it recovered from this horrific incident, the man hung the cat from a beam in his cellar until it died. That very night, the man’s house caught fire and burned down, and the man assumed that that was the cat’s way of getting revenge from the afterlife. A few months later, the man encountered a cat that looked and behaved just like Pluto. He brought it home and became discontent with its presence once again. When he tried to kill the cat again, his wife intervened, and the man killed his wife and then hid her body in the walls of the cellar of the burned house. When the police came to inspect the place, he strangely boasted about the robust nature of the cellar and tapped the walls. That caused a wailing sound to emanate from the walls. When the police pulled out the bricks, they found the wife’s dead body, as well as the fiery-eyed, bloody-mouthed Pluto, meowing at the top of its lungs.

Napoleon Usher’s tryst with Pluto in The Fall of the House of Usher is actually very similar to everything that went down in the short story. When we met Napoleon Usher, he already hated the cat. So, there was no way to ascertain if he ever had any kind of fondness for Pluto or animals in general. We didn’t see Napoleon killing Pluto, but the fact that he did it while he was drugged out of mind was quite similar to what the man did in the short story. While the man’s house burned down after killing Pluto in the short story, nothing like that happened to Napoleon’s apartment because his downward slide was a slow one. Therefore, the destruction of his home happened later on, and it was caused by Napoleon himself as he tore through its walls searching for Pluto. Napoleon actively went to get a clone of Pluto, while the man randomly found Pluto in an inn. The man tried to kill Pluto because it almost tripped him over, but Napoleon tried to kill Pluto a second time because it was channeling Verna’s powers. By the way, when Napoleon killed Pluto, both of its eyes were intact. But when he tried to kill Pluto during the final battle, he popped out one of its eyes, which was a clear reference to the one-eyed Pluto in the short story. Pluto, in the short story as well as the miniseries, symbolized comeuppance. That said, the version of Pluto in the short story only managed to get its owner caught for murder, which would probably result in jail. The version of Pluto in the miniseries got Napoleon killed.

A little cursory research showed that Edgar Allan Poe had written a short story called The Spectacles, which was based around a character called Napoleon Bonaparte Froissart. But this dude had changed his name to Simpson because the name Napoleon Bonaparte Froissart had a long and complicated history, which he didn’t like. That wasn’t a random detail, though. It became integral by the end of the story. Simpson (originally Napoleon) fell in love with a woman called Madame Lalande at the theater. Then they dove into a whirlwind romance, which obviously ended in marriage. When the lovers became Mr. and Mrs. Simpson, the woman asked Napoleon to do her a favor and wear the spectacles because, out of a plethora of physiological issues, he suffered from a case of acute nearsightedness combined with night blindness.

So, when Napoleon put on the glasses, he realized that the “beautiful, young” woman that he had married was actually an elderly lady. In fact, she was Napoleon’s great, great grandmother. By marrying Napoleon, she had made him the sole heir of her immense heritage. When and if she died, Napoleon would have all that money and the opportunity to marry the real Madame Lalande, i.e., the old lady’s acquaintance. I don’t know how this relates to Napoleon Usher’s character arc. You can say that both the Napoleons were fooled by what they thought they were seeing. Napoleon Froissart was unable to see his reality due to his aversion towards eyeglasses, and Napoleon Usher was unable to see his reality due to his drug usage. In addition to that, you can draw a parallel between Froissart’s literal nearsightedness and Napoleon Usher’s figurative nearsightedness, as he never thought about the repercussions of his drug usage, adultery, and materialism. And while Napoleon Froissart still had a lot of life ahead of him, Napoleon had none. In conclusion, be a cat lover (black cats being a bad omen is just stupid), don’t do drugs, and wear your spectacles!

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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