Verna In ‘The Fall Of The House Of Usher’: Why Did Death Come Differently For The Usher Siblings?


Verna appeared at regular intervals in The Fall of the House of Usher, and every time, she had a motive behind her visit. Verna is an anagram for the word Raven, which is symbolically associated with Death, and Carla Gugino’s character could’ve been the personification of Death. It was very easy to perceive Verna as an evil spirit who was making deals with people and ruining their lives, but on a closer look, you realize that it is not so. She was providing everyone with a playing field, and all she sought was to see what they did with it and to what extent they were ready to go for their own selfish interests. She had a childlike fascination where she wanted to know what route a human being took after she gave them an advantage and told them that they wouldn’t be penalized in any manner for their wrongdoings. She had met a lot of people in her life and condemned them to their fate, but none were half as intriguing as the Usher siblings, Madeline and Roderick. It was as if she had found a new breed of human beings who were different from the rest, and she was excited to see what they ended up doing in their lives. Verna gave people the tools but always left the decisions up to them as to which path to take, and the people never failed to amaze her. So, let’s find out how Verna met the Ushers for the very first time, why she presented a deal to them, and what price Roderick and Madeline had to pay for dealing with her.

Spoiler Alert

Why did Verna make a deal with the Ushers?

Verna, disguising herself as the bartender, saw that Madeline and Roderick Usher were sitting in the pub, so that when the time came, they had an alibi. They looked like interesting characters, which was why Verna sat with them and tried to understand what they were up to. She knew that they had come after killing Rufus Griswold, but she didn’t reveal that because she wanted to lead them to the big showdown and find out what their natural reaction was when she placed her offer on the table. She was not looking to ruin the Usher clan, but she wanted to see, if given the option, how far these twins were willing to go. Verna told them that they could have all the luxuries in their lives, become the CEO or COO of the Fortune company, and not get convicted even once if, in return, they agreed that their entire bloodline would die with them. It meant that even their children and grandchildren would die prematurely if they chose to make a deal with Verna. Verna was luring them by saying that even if their kids lived a decade or two less, they would have all the privileges and opportunities that they wanted. She knew that she had asked for something that, generally, is the most difficult sacrifice for people. Why would anyone want to condemn their own children to such a fate? But Verna realized that she didn’t need to convince Roderick or Madeline, as they had made up their minds. The fact that they could have all they had desired up until then overpowered everything else, and they were blinded and allured by just dreaming about the kind of material wealth they could amass.

Even at this juncture in The Fall of the House of Usher, Verna wasn’t rooting for their destruction; and she only wanted to see where their lives led them. Verna had never expected that Roderick was capable of causing an opioid epidemic in the country and ruining the lives of so many people, and that too, without batting an eye or feeling any sort of guilt or remorse. The Ushers conquered the world, but they lost against the eternal truth of life, i.e., Death. Verna would have improvised if she had seen any signs of them retracing their steps, but the Ushers went about their business in an unabashed manner as if they had forgotten that they would have to pay for their sins in this lifetime itself.

Why Did Death Come Differently For The Usher Siblings?

Verna might have made a deal like the devil makes it, but she was considerate enough to be magnanimous in her approach. There was a stark contrast in the way Death approached someone like Fredrick and how she dealt with a person like Lenore. Whereas Frederick was killed in the most brutal manner, Death itself felt bad about taking Lenore’s life, and it tried to give her all sorts of comfort in her last moments. Frederick had tortured his wife so much that even Death felt like a better option, and that is why Verna improvised and made sure that he felt the fear and experienced hell in his last moments. Frederick’s mind was conscious, and he could see the pendulum swinging over his head. In those last moments, Verna wanted him to feel that desperation, that restlessness, and that trepidation because, according to her, it was the right thing to do.

Whereas when it came to Lenore, Verna was bound by the deal, and she told her that it was that part of her job that she hated the most. Lenore was a pure-hearted person, and she probably never hurt anybody in her life. Verna comforted her by telling her how her mother was going to prosper in her life and how she was going to save millions of women who had been victims of domestic abuse. Verna also made an offer to Arthur Pym, but he didn’t take the deal, and so she did not come for him. She did try to allure him as she did with the Ushers in the past, but the man was not greedy, and he was ready to face the consequences of his actions. Arthur Pym was a sensible man, and he knew that somebody would have to pay for the sins if not him, and he didn’t feel that it was justified to let his descendant walk towards their doom for things they hadn’t done. So basically, it could be concluded that Death treated people as they deserved to be treated, though sometimes, even the hands of Death were bound, and it had to do things that it didn’t want to.

What Did Verna Symbolize?

Verna, just like the Raven in the works of Edgar Allen Poe, symbolized Death for a larger part of the series, though in the beginning, she did lure the Ushers into a deal like a devil. Verna was also the personification of the means or medium one needed to realize who they really were. Verna’s presence reminded the Usher family of how fragile life was and how we humans became oblivious to the fact even after we knew that we would reach there at some point in time. Roderick and Madeline had both become delusional, and they had started feeling that they could deceive Death as they were too powerful to be defeated. That is why Madeline tried to kill her brother because she thought that the deal would be broken by it, and then nobody would have to die. On the other hand, Roderick was a step ahead of his sister, and he did the most foolish thing ever and tried to change his fate, which had been sealed years ago, through his material possessions. Madeline had started feeling infallible, and Verna made sure that she broke her and her brother’s illusion and made them realize that just like nobody had authority over the wind to restrain it, Death too, couldn’t be conquered, even by the most powerful of human beings.

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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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