Get Out, the House Is Falling

The scariest part of any horror text is the likelihood of similar events playing out in reality. One way to draw on this fear is to play on an audience’s social anxieties. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and Jordan Peele’s Get Out both accomplish this by utilizing the same universal fear — that of being an outsider. In both works our protagonist is entering an unfamiliar home, and immediately feels unsettled there. These protagonists invade family spaces and are set apart from each home’s occupants by a biological factor — race or health. Furthermore, these are no ordinary homes as each acts as the vessel of a family’s legacy. The House of Usher contains the legacy of the Usher family just as the Armitage family home operates as the base for the Order of the Coagula. When one is destroyed the other dies with it. Our protagonists act as catalysts for the disruption of each legacy and as witnesses to the demise of family and home. Both of these stories highlight the fear of disrupting an established order from the perspective of an outsider. This is key to the statements that each work is then able to make on the world order as it stood when the respective texts were conceived. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is from a time when relation and property meant everything, and so Poe has both crumble into the dirt to exaggerate any fear his audience may have had concerning those realms. Alternatively, Get Out uses a sinister perception of whiteness as the structure to be toppled by the film’s end. For Peele’s audience the reaction may vary based on race; a white audience may recognize their fear of a racial hierarchy shifting towards equality, while a black audience could fear how their white counterparts may lash out to prevent such a shift. Each work draws on culturally shared fears of disruption and new orders.

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One thought on “Get Out, the House Is Falling”

  1. Really interesting connection you are making between “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “Get Out”, and the way you write about it makes a lot of sense. In both cases there is a House and a family where it’s clear that something’s a bit (or a lot) off, and an outsider who comes in to expose it. Thank you for sharing this connection that I hadn’t made, but which has really stimulated my thinking!

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