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Poe, “The After Hours,” and American Womanhood

Materials in this class are subject to copyright law and are for class purposes and personal study and should not be distributed or displayed outside of class.

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Assignment Requirements:

Assignments that have been copied wholly or in part will receive a grade of zero.

Assignments whose ideas have been borrowed from other sources without the appropriate credit given to the original authors will receive a grade of zero.

Read and View: Read “The Fall of House of Usher” and view “The After Hours.” Please copy and paste this link to video “The After Hours:”

If interested in reading the transcript for “The After Hours,” please click on

This will take you to the radio play version. On your right, you can click on the “cc” button for subtitles and below that, if you click on “More,” you will find the transcript.

Overview and Prompt:

In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of House of Usher,” one of the main characters, Madeline, is more than likely prematurely buried. Focusing on actions and incidents taking place in the story, how can we interpret them to understand the roles of women in the nineteenth century? Moving forward one hundred years later, in 1960, writer Rod Sterling, director Douglas Heyes, and a host of actors and creative crew created one episode for The Twilight Zone called “The After Hours.” This time, there is another dramatization of an entrapped woman. Examining the story and the film closely, would you say that by 1960, women were becoming freed from societal constraints? Or, were their situations becoming more complex?

To help you begin answering the above questions, please think about the following questions:

1.What similarities and or differences do you find between Poe’s “The Fall of House of Usher” and the Twilight Zone’s “The After Hours”?

2.Why do you think these similarities and or differences are significant? Please make sure you write about at least three similarities and or differences. Do not just point them out, but rather explain the meaning behind these differences and or similarities.

3.Please note that “text” refers to any creatively produced work that we study and interpret to understand the greater historical or social condition that it reflects. With this in mind, what do the texts reveal about the role of women in the mid-nineteenth and then the twentieth century in the United States? Have women become more emancipated or do the texts reveal anxieties about the position of women?

4.Starting with “The Fall of House of Usher” (1839) and moving on to “The After Hours” (1960), is there a significant shift in the position of women from the nineteenth century to mid-twentieth century?

5.What are the texts trying to suggest?

You are required to read the short story. You are required to view the film.

Do not rely on online summaries or interpretations. Give yourself the opportunity to creatively and independently think about the meaning of the story. Please remember that the meaning of the story is not some hidden aspect of the story that you are trying to pull out; there are always multiple meanings to stories and multiple ways to approach a story. You are taking the words of the story and creating a meaning based on your creative thinking. Relying on outside sources will complicate the process. If you do consult interpretations from outside sources (and I do not recommend it at all since this is a survey course), you must give credit to these other sources. However, you also must voice your own opinion and one of the aims of this course is for you to develop your skill in creating meaning and interpreting. Failure to give credit to outside sources when consulted will result in a grade of zero.

Rely on your own reading and creative thoughts. Do not pull ideas from outside sources and pass them off as your own. This would be plagiarizing. Plagiarized work will earn a grade of zero. Per college policies, the dean will also need to be notified.

One possible reason to fail this homework assignment:

The ideas are clearly plagiarized. The writer has copied all or parts or even one sentence of this in depth response from an online source or any other source. The in depth response has been recycled. Or, ideas have been gathered from different sources without giving the original source any credit. Plagiarized work earns a grade of zero with no possibility to rewrite the response for a higher grade.

Please note that a strong, sincere effort to independently produce an analysis that is clearly the author’s own immediately establishes the author’s credibility and ethos. For a quick explanation of what is needed to establish a strong argument in writing (and speaking), please see the explanations below:


Logos (Greek for ‘word’) refers to the internal consistency of the message–the clarity of the claim, the logic of its reasons, and the effectiveness of its supporting evidence. The impact of logos on an audience is sometimes called the argument’s logical appeal.

Ethos (Greek for ‘character’) refers to the trustworthiness or credibility of the writer or speaker. Ethos is often conveyed through tone and style of the message and through the way the writer or speaker refers to differing views. It can also be affected by the writer’s reputation as it exists independently from the message–his or her expertise in the field, his or her previous record or integrity, and so forth. The impact of ethos is often called the argument’s ‘ethical appeal’ or the ‘appeal from credibility.’

[P]athos (Greek for ‘suffering’ or ‘experience’) is often associated with emotional appeal. But a better equivalent might be ‘appeal to the audience’s sympathies and imagination.’ An appeal to pathos causes an audience not just to respond emotionally but to identify with the writer’s point of view–to feel what the writer feels. In this sense, pathos evokes a meaning implicit in the verb ‘to suffer’–to feel pain imaginatively…. Perhaps the most common way of conveying a pathetic appeal is through narrative or story, which can turn the abstractions of logic into something palpable and present. The values, beliefs, and understandings of the writer are implicit in the story and conveyed imaginatively to the reader. Pathos thus refers to both the emotional and the imaginative impact of the message on an audience, the power with which the writer’s message moves the audience to decision or action.

[The above text drawn verbatim from Ramage, John D. and John C. Bean. Writing Arguments. 4th Edition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 1998, 81-82.]

The Language of Short Stories and Film

To study short stories, we pay attention to:

our own thoughts, ideas and reactions as we are reading

the plot – the beginning, middle, conclusion




characters – the way they are described, what they say, what they don’t say (silences can carry significance)

characters’ relationships with one another


particular choice of words

To study film, we pay attention to:

our own thoughts, ideas and reactions as we are viewing the film

colors used in film


tone of voice

actors – the way they dress, how they speak,



Analytical words and Phrases to Show Analysis: Please consider usingany phrase or words that suit your purposes:

Analytical Words and Phrases

Readers may think…..or, readers may come to the conclusion that …..

Viewers may think…..

(people) may think…..but in all reality, if we examine the short story more closely…..

If we examine the film more closely…..

It might be evident

It helps to keep in mind

What truly matters ……

Frankly,/ Fortunately, / Evidently, / To our surprise

This segment of the film deserves great attention because….

That particular character’s action in this segment of the film speaks volumes about ……

It might represent

It may show

show / suggests / means

Perhaps it reveals

Viewers may come to the conclusion that it may mean

It may symbolize / It becomes clear

(Important verb)****** may **********he may have…….

The way the director concentrated on an up close image shows ..or may point to the fact that

Describing various components of the story or film, the following may help you communicate your ideas:

In the beginning of “The Fall of House of Usher”

Fifteen minutes into “The After Hours,” viewers see Marsha….

At the end of the film,…..

There is a woman in the painting

Van Gogh has drawn / has depicted / has shown

readers are introduced to a scene where

Roderick Usher says, “……………” ().

Transitional words

As if this were not horrifying enough

As much as she struggled, she may have found hope ….

To make matters worse,

To make matters more hopeful,


For this reason,

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