As one of the two surviving members of the Usher family
in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Roderick is one of Poe’s character
doubles, or doppelgangers. Roderick is intellectual and bookish,
and his twin sister, Madeline, is ill and bedridden. Roderick’s
inability to distinguish fantasy from reality resembles his sister’s
physical weakness. Poe uses these characters to explore the philosophical
mystery of the relationship between mind and body. With these twins,
Poe imagines what would happen if the connection between mind and body
were severed and assigned to separate people. The twin imagery and
the incestuous history of the Usher line establish that Roderick
is actually inseparable from his sister. Although mind and body
are separated, they remain dependent on each other for survival.
This interdependence causes a chain reaction when one of the elements
suffers a breakdown. Madeline’s physical death coincides with the
collapse of both Roderick’s sanity and the Ushers’ mansion.