Both featured blogs this week put Tuan to work in interesting ways. How might you expand on the discussion of the symbolic value of the windows in the Usher house (in relation to Tuan’s observations about architectural structures and light) in post 1, and, in post 2, what else might you add to the discussion of public and private spaces in Fitzgerald’s story?
Post #1: “The Fall of the House of Usher”
In the story of “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allen Poe, the narrator, who is unknown, arrives at his childhood friend’s house, Roderick Usher. Roderick had sent his dear friend a letter stating that it is imperative that he come see Roderick because he was feeling very ill. When the narrator arrives at the house he notices how glum the house looked. Although it was a very unkempt house, with much deteriorating stones and a crack down the frame of the house, the narrator was very surprised to see it standing strongly in its condition. Upon walking into the room he sees a very pale and visibly sick Roderick. For the next couple of days the narrator stays at the lonely house of Usher to keep him company. His very sick sister dies while the narrator is staying at the house and they bury her under the house. Roderick suffers from great fear because he believes that his sister is haunting him because she was buried alive. In the middle of the night Roderick wakes up the narrator to tell him that his sister is still alive. Suddenly she appears behind the door of his bedroom and attacks Roderick and kills him. The once sturdy, yet decrepit, house split in half and crumbled to the ground.
I believe the house stood as a symbol of Roderick’s comfort. It was the house that he had lived in for a very long time with his family (although many of his family members had died). It was an architectural establishment that supplied him with everything he could need. It put a roof over his head, he had a warm bed, and he had his sister with him. Although the exterior and interior of the house was gloomy, this could have been how Roderick and his late-family wanted it to be. Tuan states, “Historically, interior space was dark and narrow. This was true not only of humble dwellings but also of monumental edifices… Architectural drawings and relics show that interior space was elaborated together with the fenestration of light… The light-flooded interiors of Baroque churches and halls were further efforts to explore the possibilities of a major and enduring concept of space” (Tuan 110).
It is possible that the way Roderick’s house let in light had a lot to do with how he wanted to live. He had a dark house with “vacant eye-like windows” (Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”). This means that the windows did not let in much light. They were a bit too small for the house. This was the way the house was constructed yet, for some reason, the Usher family was fond of it. All in all I believe that the Usher family was so dismal because that’s the type of people they were and that they picked their own fate in a sense. They were drawn to the dreary architectural structure of their own home, which had set their fate for them.
Post #2: “Babylon Revisited”
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited,” the main character, Charlie, is attempting to put his life back together after a three-year rough patch that involved alcoholism, the collapse of his marriage, and the death of his wife. Now that he’s been sober for a year and a half and is financially stable despite the crash of the stock market, Charlie’s main goal is to regain custody of his daughter Honoria from his wife’s sister and brother-in-law. However, Charlie’s return to Paris only reminds him of the life he used to lead, and the various settings described in the story are very telling of the relationships between the characters.
The first place Charlie visits is the bar he used to go to with his friends. It was a busy place, full of life, and now has hardly anyone in it. Tuan says in his chapter on “Architectural Space and Awareness” that “architecture is key to comprehending reality” (102). There is a strong connection between the attachment Charlie has to the physical place itself and to all the memories he has there. The contrast lies in the fact that the architectural space has remained the same, but that so much else has changed. As Tuan says, this forces Charlie to see the reality that, although he is back to where his past took place, much has changed including himself.
Another important instance of physical surroundings having an effect on relationships is within Marion and Lincoln’s home. Tuan explains that “built environment clarifies social roles and relations” (102). This is especially true when it comes to people’s homes. Charlie notes how protected the children feel in Marion’s house, and it’s extremely significant that Charlie needs to enter someone else’s domain in order to obtain something that is his. At this point in time, Honoria’s guardians are Marion and Lincoln, and they have been more of parents to her than Charlie has. They are the parents of the household, and Charlie feels the strain of the relationship between them every time he enters the building.
Tuan also speaks of a social awareness that comes with private and public domains. He says that everyone knows of the differences between “inside and outside, of intimacy and exposure, of private life and public space” (107). Unfortunately, some people are more conscious of these differences than others. The turning point in the story comes when Charlie’s boisterous friends from the past take the liberty to find Lincoln’s address and invite themselves over. They come in the middle of what started as a hopeful discussion about Honoria’s custody, and ruin Charlie’s chances of getting his child back. They were completely disrespectful of Charlie’s private life, and their loudness and disregard for someone’s intimate space shows that they weren’t concerned about interrupting anything of importance at all. They blurred the lines of behavior fit for “outside” and behavior fit for “inside,” and because of this, Charlie’s plan is ultimately ruined.