Why Roderick Kept Having Kids In House Of Usher (Despite Knowing Their Fates)

Warning: This article includes spoilers for The Fall of the House of Usher.

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Summary

  • Roderick believed that a short life of wealth and opportunity was better than a long life of struggling and mediocrity. He saw his mother suffer and die in pain, and believed that his drug empire could create a world without pain.
  • Roderick’s personal philosophy seemed altruistic, but it was actually driven by his own selfishness and desire for wealth. He made a pact with the devil to amass his fortune, knowing the consequences would be the graves of his six children.
  • Roderick’s decision to continue having children, despite knowing they would die early, makes him even worse than Madeline. He prioritized his own sense of purpose and legacy over the lives of his children, believing that only the ruthless could succeed in the world.

“It’s amazing how far you can get on denial,” Roderick Usher explains to Augie during his final confession in The Fall of the House of Usher, hinting at why Roderick continued to have children despite the fact that he knew their fates. There are a lot of ways to interpret his final “confession” to the man who’s been trying to take his crime family down for decades, a brood consisting of six children by five different mothers that Roderick kept having despite the fact that he knew they wouldn’t lead very long lives, eventually doomed do die in horrific ways.

It seems like a curious thing for a father to condemn his children to short lives, but Mike Flanagan’s Netflix horror based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe suggests myriad possibilities to Rothe Usher patriarch’s decision to keep reproducing. Whether or not he was a sadist desiring to offer incredible wealth and then cut itself short, was really that careless, or some other determination involving Madeline getting an IUD to ensure she wouldn’t have children, the reason lies in The Fall of the House of Usher’s timeline including his tumultuous upbringing as well as need to build an empire built on opioids with Fortunado Pharmaceuticals.

Roderick Thought A Short Life Of Wealth Was Better Than A Long Life Of Struggling

Bruce Greenwood as Roderick on the ground with a bloody face in The Fall of the House of Usher

Roderick never got to benefit from a wealthy life until his mother killed Longeford, and he vowed to never turn his children away as his father did. Whoever bore the Usher name would not have the gates closed on them because he knew what it was like to feel dejected and abjured. His personal philosophy sprouted from that sentiment, and founded his fortune on a drug that vowed to create a “world without pain.”

A short life full of the best opportunities possible seemed more than a long life of struggling. Roderick saw his mother wither away and die because there was nothing that could manage her pain. Fortunado and its wonder drug were the way to change the world, as far as Roderick was concerned, the ends justified the means. A concentrated life distilled to its most opulent, like his 4 million dollar cognac, was better than living a long life steeped in onerous mediocrity.

Roderick Was Only Thinking Of Himself & His Wealth, Not His Children

Roderick Usher alongside The Fall of the House of Usher's Ligodone drug

Despite the fact that his personal philosophy at the beginning of the confession seems to suggest altruism but it belies avarice. This final quote from him in his confession is truly telling: of the pact that Roderick made with the devil in order to obtain his obscene level of wealth. A part of him try to deny what he would have to do to amass so much fortune, but by the end of his life, he could only stare at the consequences of his actions marked by the gravestones of his six children.

“I knew. In the witching hour. I knew I would climb to the top of the tower on a pile of corpses. And we told them it was about soothing the world’s pain. That’s the biggest lie we told. You can’t eliminate pain. There’s no such thing as a painkiller. And imagine if we put that on the bottle. I bet I still could have sold it.”

He knew that he was marketing a lie with his cure-all pain-reliever, but just like the Sackler Family responsible for America’s opioid crisis, the Usher name became inextricably tied to the death and degradation of a nation with tens of thousands of deaths thanks to its highly-addictive nature. No matter what he told anyone close to him or the media, only Madeline understood why he did what he did what he did except someone who would kill to protect family secrets.

Roderick Continuing To Have Children In House Of Usher Makes Him Worse Than Madeline

The Fall Of The House Of Usher Madeline Mary McDonnell

Madeline was a cutthroat co-conspirator but nothing could quite compare to Roderick knowingly condemning his two children with Annabel Lee to an early grave and then turning around and having 4 more kids who would inevitably die early. As Camille so memorably said after the death of Prospero, the first of Roderick’s children to die, “Opportunity doesn’t care what you’re going through,” implying that only the most ruthless and heartless can wind up at the top, because without money, an idea was just an idea.

The Usher family legacy was always dependent on survival and being able to pivot, and as the witching hour dawned on Roderick with his degenerative disease, he didn’t believe in Madeline’s virtual method of immortality. He wanted to be able to live forever through his progeny because it was the one thing he actually created. He was the middle man and never made Ligedone, like his children never created anything of consequence, so while creating them condemned them to death, it gave him the smallest sense of purpose and “true resolution” in The Fall of the House of Usher.

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