-If you want to read more articles you'll find them (in Spanish) at

Friday, October 12

Symbolism And The Incest Theme In "The Fall Of The House Of Usher"

“The Fall of the House of Usher” is acknowledged as one of the best short stories of Edgar Allan Poe. In this brief essay, we will explore a few of its symbols. As many authors before have established (see Wasserman, 1977) there is something weird in the relationship between the siblings Roderick and Madeline. 

Usher’s room as a reflection of his mind

A symbol any close reader may recall is the room in which Roderick Usher lingers and plays his guitar. It can be conceived as a metaphor of his own twisted and dark psyche. Both the room and the protagonist’s personality could be described as dark: as Roderick spends years isolated from the world, not even the windows in the room are suited for providing some light from the outside. He is an artist, but that does not bring any light or hope upon his character. At the same time, the musical instruments “lay scattered about, but failed to give any vitality to the scene. I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow.”
The remote arches of Roderick chamber remain unreachable for the narrator, his only personal friend. This can be interpreted as a symbol of Roderick Usher’s deepest secret, that is only insinuated and suspected –again, both by the narrator as well as the reader. Many critics believe Poe is alluding to an incestuous relationship between Usher and Madeline.

The dreadful bond between the siblings

Madeline has been Usher’s “sole companion for long years”. Is the fact that brother and sister have been living isolated from the world enough for labelling their relationship as incestuous? Probably it is not. However, in the story, there are other hints that certainly point in that direction. The narrator has just a glimpse of her ghostly figure; Usher no longer mentions her name for several days, after crying passionate tears after seeing her wonder around his door. The readers know she suffers from an illness, but so does Usher, and yet his symptoms are described in detail. The whole figure of Madeline is surrounded by mystery.
After Madeline is supposed to die, her corpse is kept in a vault, but not in just any vault, but a former donjon. Is Usher trying to punish her sister / lover for abandoning him? Is he trying to get rid of her though he knows she might still be alive? The one thing we know for certain is that he is hiding her in the dark, constraining her, as psychoanalysts would explain we do in our minds with our darkest secrets. The narrator only finds out that the Ushers were twins after he takes a look at her mortuary expression, and at the same time he comes very close to the true nature of their relationship: “Usher, divining, perhaps, my thoughts, murmured out some few words from which I learned that the deceased and himself had been twins, and that sympathies of a scarcely intelligible nature had always existed between them” (my emphasis)
After the burial, Usher just becomes worse in nature, and again, the narrator suspects he has something to hide: “There were times, indeed, when I thought his unceasingly agitated mind was labouring with some oppressive secret, to divulge which he struggled for the necessary courage.” Usher lacks such courage –or, we may wonder, does Poe avoid revealing the real dreadful bond all together?
The end of the story has been anticipated: brother and sister die together in one final embrace, and the house, another obvious use of symbolism for representing their lineage, is destroyed by terrible forces of nature –the whirlwind.


We have explored Usher and Madeline’s relationship, together with other strong symbols that provide enrichment to this tragic work by Edgar Allan Poe. For our purposes, we will not refer to the biography of the author, even when certain aspects of his life could be useful for further understanding some of the main motifs, such as the incest theme.


Wasserman, R. R. (n.d.). Text: Renata R. Mautner Wasserman, "The Self, the Mirror, the Other: 'The Fall of the House of Usher'," Poe Studies, December 1977, Vol. X, No. 2, 10:33-35. Retrieved from

Monday, October 15

Some things we can start doing today to help our environment

Today October 15th, B.A. Blogger Girl, together with thousands of blogs worldwide, has decided to join Blog Action Day, which task is to discuss an issue that affects us all: the environment.

It is a subject that worries me very much and also kind of brings me down, but in spite of that, I've decided to look from a positive attitude. That's why here are some things which we can start doing today in order to collaborate with saving the planet.

- Don't waste any water: When you're washing your hair, or brushing your teeth or washing the dishes, first use the soap and then open the tap.

- Save electricity: Because of the money we spend in it as well as to help the environment, we can waste less power by sharing the elevator with our neighbors -it is also a sign of politeness-. We should also turn off the lights of a room when we are not in it, as well as computers, radios and TV sets when we are not using them.

- Watch your shopping: It's better to spend some extra money and buy brands that we know are Earth Friendly (for example, of canned tuna or sprays). Try not to through away any food, not only because it's expensive, also consider the amount of natural resources invested in it. To buy recycled products is another good choice.

- Protect a small part of the planet: Even though they could be just a few flower pots in your balcony, take care of your plants. They produce oxygen during photosynthesis -besides they make our home beautiful-. As tiny as your collaboration should seem, you will be protecting life.

- Know, tell, participate: Is good to be aware of everyday issues concerning our environment. If ecology were a big concern for many people, politicians would have no choice but to pay attention to it and act in consequence. To pass on the information is another way of creating conscience. Specially young children can be taught -later they will communicate the information to their parents and siblings-. Last but not least participating in campaigns is important: the more we are, more possibilities we'll have to face bigger actions than these humble ones I proposed.

Friday, August 3

My reflections as I scrub the toilet

Published for the first time in Spanish on July, 2006.

Everybody tells you so: moving isn’t easy. My old man told me once that it’s the highest cause of stress, together with the death of a beloved (I wonder if it’s really that terrible, though, dad overreacts sometimes). The truth is that changing apartments means a lot of work! These days, when my moving is only a few days away, I’m on the lookout for boxes, coming and going into all the supermarkets of my neighborhood. Some employees already know me and keep the boxes apart especially for me. Others aren’t so cool, they won’t give you anything. I mean, they’re just boxes, you can’t expect me toy pay for them, can you?

Another chore I’m into is the one that gives a title to this post: a big cleaning of the whole apartment, which has been empty for several years. The bathroom was full of stains, not to mention the disgusting kitchen –replete of dead cockroaches, long time dried-. I discovered the use of different cleaning products, those ones which so far I’ve only known through silly and sexist TV spots. I fought the toughest dirt and I scrubbed the washtub until it was sparkling shiny, mint-smelled, I-can-see-my-reflection-on-its-surface clean.

Some way I’ve got all this new sympathy for all those (particularly women, I don’t know why) who are obsessed about the cleaning of their house: a time came when I would tell myself “can’t stop now, everything’s shinier, got to keep on until it’s perrrrfect…”. Maybe the only difference between me and these poor ladies is that, after a few minutes, stinking, my hands smelling of lye and with painful elbows, I did say “what the hell, it’ll get dirty again”, I got changed and called it a day.

The (not) only one family of today

Another version of the following article was published on "Temas de hombre / temas de mujer" an e-magazine no longer on line, on January 2005.

Mom, dad, two kids (better if boy and girl). Sometimes, granddad on a side, smoking a tobacco pipe, or grandma knitting one of her famous Christmas sweaters we all pretend to like. Typical postcard of the family such as it showed on Elementary School textbooks in Argentina a couple decades ago. Mom cooks, dad works, the children play. The Ingall’s model of family, for some the only true guarantee of a happy life.
Today things have changed. Mom and dad got divorced, later remarried new people and had more children. Today the postcard includes stepbrothers, stepsisters, half brothers, mom, mom’s new husband, dad, dad’s girlfriend, her kids… Either that or else the every day more popular single parent’s homes. Even the “traditional” families are getting smaller, each time people choose to have fewer children for economic causes, among other reasons. The late 2001 economic crisis took aunt and uncle out of the country. Grandparents no longer live at home with us, but many times people in their 30’s still linger at their parents’. Also, the children talk about a classmate of them who has two daddies, or two mommies… living together.

Despite what many people say, it didn’t happen between sunset and sunrise. Changes were introduced gradually in our society, being the most obvious the massive incorporation of women to labor market. From this point, we have our children later in life, and only in case we decide to have them. Other transformations are due to more specific facts, like the approval of laws concerning divorce: in Argentina this happened in 1987, being at that time a major argument between progressive and traditional sectors, such as Catholic Church, which claims for a return to the family model of yore.
But what these sectors are forgetting is, precisely, that such a model was never unique: there have always been broken marriages, separations; there were always some men who kept a double life (meaning that their children had stepbrothers or half brothers, even though they used to be called “love children”, “illegitimate”, “bastards”). There has always been homosexuality, the difference being that it was something to hide and to be ashamed of. Never before had two men or two women been able to even dream about raising their own family. Maybe, many of these changes that shock some actually mean the end of hypocrisies. If mom and dad no longer love each other, there’s no need to pretend. Today is better a mutual agreement of divorce than living unhappily together.

Does divorce affect the children in a negative way? Sure. But I wonder: does the fact that mom and dad hate each other, the fact that they can’t stand looking into each other’s face, and -besides that- are forced on living under the same roof, doesn’t this all affect the children as well? Of course the little ones can live divorce as a major lost, but it can be a more or less traumatic event. It’s up to how their parents explain it to them. If boys and girls understand that they’re still loved, if they keep on seeing both of their parents, and if mom and dad both make decisions together concerning their children’s education, health and life, they can still remain a family.

The proliferation of children born of the second marriage of the third husband of daddy’s fourth wife who are my siblings but aren’t related to my stepbrother’s half sister… Why keeping the score? Children will be children: raised together, they all will be brothers and sisters, no matter how much DNA they happen to share. And if not, we should increase their affection and lessen the competition. They ought to know that they’re all loved: adding love instead of dividing it.
The arduous debate is probably if gay men or women should have children of their own. French anthropologist Anne Cadoret says that today society is heading to a way of plural filiations: this means, that children would not be only their biological parent’s, instead they would be raised surrounded by several maternal and paternal figures. In that way, it wouldn’t be surprising if they lived with two women or two men. The mother/father kind of family -such as we know it- is only a social construction, one possibility among many others. Many noticed that it’s “unnatural” that gay people have children without heterosexual intercourse: well, what’s not natural is the IVF-ET medical procedure; however, it has allowed many heterosexual couples enjoy parenthood, and fewer have complained about that.
And when gay couples decide to adopt, they find all kind of obstacles on the way. It is not allowed in every country. But in the meantime, what about all the children who aren’t given in adoption? They’re doomed, forced to spend their sad childhood in orphanages, or –even worse- their own families that can’t (or won’t) take proper care of them. Meanwhile, two people (no matter what’s their gender) are willing to give these children all the love they need and deserve. Should law stop them from doing so?
It is said that children raised by homosexual couples are always missing a father figure (should there be raised by women) or a mother figure (if raised by men). But, on the other side, the same happens with children that come from a single-parent’s home. What’s important in these cases is that children find a mother or father figure in other relatives (grandparents, uncles, aunts, godparents). Nobody would wonder whether a single mom or dad is able to bring up their children. Then, why wouldn’t two moms, or two dads, that are together and love each other, success?

Family is the first stage for a proper socializing. Our first steps into society are achieved by living with a loving family. Nowadays we are immersed in a plural society, where there is divorce, where homosexuality is no longer taboo, where people remarries and reassembles their families… maybe what’s most important when the time comes for raising our children, is teaching them to live together in this world, no matter the differences they’ll find among people. Let’s turn them into tolerant persons, tolerant even with those who don’t share their tolerance.
And love them. That’s what family is for. Be that as it may.

Thursday, August 2

Why a blog?

A similar post published in Spanish on May 2006.

I wrote what I recall to be my first short story when I was 7. I can’t remember its title, but I know for sure it was about a lonely fish that lived in a fish bowl. He ended up meeting a beautiful little female fish (I think I literally wrote it that way). I miss how easily ideas pumped into my head in that time of my life. I didn’t care if they weren’t particularly original.

Now I’m sitting in front of this old screen in my little apartment and I’m wondering why on Earth I created this blog. Precisely me, the one who brakes into every possible conversation between strangers, on the elevator, queuing up in the bank or in the supermarket, even on the bus … have I just ran out of things to say?

We’ll see.