In The Fall Of The House Of Usher, Roderick and Madeline enter a pub on New Year's Eve. They get talking to the bar woman, who eventually reveals

she knows that they have murdered their boss and arranged to take over the company. At this point, she makes a deal that she will ensure they get away with it in exchange for the lives of their children.

That's fine for Madeline - she doesn't have any - but Roderick already has one by this stage, and we find out he has five others by the time the payment is due. It seems he is so greedy, he is willing to sacrifice them for success.

However, by this point he and Madeline are portrayed as already having felt like they had the situation under control, that they were confident that they would get away with it and that their plan was working.

So why the need for such a drastic sacrifice? Verna (the barwoman) doesn't seem to be threatening to go to the police or anything - the exchange is relatively amicable. Are we supposed to think that she is subtly threatening to reveal all if they refuse? But the scene doesn't really play out like one of blackmail.

  • It's a pact with the devil. Nov 8, 2023 at 3:04
  • They don't know for sure they will get away with it or whether the scheme will give them long term success. They choose a guarantee of a long, successful life in return for consequences that largely affect others. It isn't a very moral deal but surely the attraction of it is clear, if illuminating about their characters.
    – matt_black
    Dec 3, 2023 at 19:07

1 Answer 1


Madeline and Roderick aren't sure they'll get away with it at that point. The deal is a guarantee to get away with it and Roderick says, more or less, that even if the children die prematurely, the deal guarantees they will have lived good lives of wealth and privilege.

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