The Fall of the House of Usher landed on Netflix in October 2023, and the impact it would have on the world of streaming was clear since the first day: conceived by Mike Flanagan, the mind behind The Haunting of Hill House, Gerald’s Game, and Doctor Sleep, and inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and his whole universe, the series has triggered many different reactions. The plot contains many hidden references to Poe’s literature, and one of the most fascinating characters is Lenore, Roderick’s granddaughter, the last one to die in his bloodline. In this article, we will discover who she represents and how it relates to Poe’s works.
You can watch the official trailer for Netflix’s The Fall of the House of Usher here on Youtube.
The Fall of The House of Usher: who’s Lenore in Edgar Allan Poe
In this article, we analyzed how The Fall of the House of Usher has interpreted the short novel of the same title by Edgar Allan Poe. The protagonists, Roderick and Madeline, are taken directly from the story written by Poe and moved to the present time. However, as Poe’s fans noticed, every episode is a reinterpretation of another work by the American author: The Black Cat, The Masque of the Red Death, Murder in the Rue Morgue, Goldbug, The Raven, they all are famous stories or poems by Edgar Allan Poe. And even Arthur Gordon Pym, the Usher family’s lawyer, is inspired by the protagonist of Poe’s novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.
As every lover of Edgar Allan Poe literature notices, Lenore is no exception in the web of references The Fall of the House of Usher created from the books. And the symbolism she represents is particularly fascinating. In the Netflix series, Lenore is one of the few positive characters in the Usher family: Roderick repeatedly mentions her with Auguste Dupin, describing her as “the best among us.” He even praises her for how she inherited the good heart of her grandmother, Annabel Lee, Roderick’s first wife, who left after he betrayed Dupin in the case against Fortunato Pharmaceutics. As we sadly saw at the ending of the series, Lenore is the last Usher to die after the pact Roderick made with Verna, who represents the devil: he had a life of success, wealth, and good luck, but the price was that every Usher in his bloodline would have died with him when time will come.
You can appreciate the special connection between Roderick Usher and his granddaughter Lenore in this clip, published as an exclusive by Netflix’s Youtube channel.
Who is Lenore in the literature by Edgar Allan Poe, and how did The Fall of the House of Usher take inspiration for this character? Lenore is considered a recurrent character in Poe’s literary universe, as it appears in two of his major poems: she’s mentioned in The Raven, published by Poe in 1845, and she’s the protagonist of the poem Lenore, published in 1843.
The Raven is one of Poe’s most famous and beloved poems, and it’s indeed the inspiration behind the last episode of The Fall of the House of Usher. Some of his lines are even recited by Roderick in the Netflix series, specifically those mentioning Lenore. You can find them below, an excerpt from the original poem:
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.
According to the standard interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe literature, Lenore represents the grief for the author’s lost love. It is believed that Edgar Allan Poe created Lenore from the memory of his wife Virginia, who died from tuberculosis in 1847, when she was 24. From this point of view, Lenore is not just the image of the brightest woman who appeared in Poe’ works: she also represents the inevitability of death and Poe’s inability to move on from her absence.
And in The Raven, there is no reassurance for the protagonist’s loss: the narrator talks to a raven who entered his home, sharing with the bird his sorrow for Lenore’s death, looking for signs of hope. But the raven keeps answering with one only famous word: “Nevermore,” symbolizing denial of the hope the man is seeking. It’s fascinating how Lenore’s AI identity in The Fall of the House of Usher keeps repeating the same word in his chat with Roderick Usher.
A similar meaning emerges in Lenore, the poem published by Edgar Allan Poe in 1843. In this composition, Lenore is described as “queenliest dead that ever died so young”:
See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore!
Come! let the burial rite be read–the funeral song be sung!–
An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young–
A dirge for her the doubly dead in that she died so young.
So once again, Edgar Allan Poe portrays Lenore as an angelic figure, an image of beauty that faded away. It’s worth noticing that both The Raven and Lenore were written when Poe’s wife Virginia was still alive: she had developed tuberculosis years before, and the American author was already in the process of facing the grief that would soon enter his life.
Therefore, Lenore in The Fall of the House of Usher represents the innocence of an individual whose death is inevitable: Roderick always knew she would have to die because of the pact he made with the devil. But among all the ones Roderick saw dying in those days, Lenore is the one who triggers more guilt in him.