As more viewers delve into The Fall of the House of Usher, a new theory that connects the family member’s fates to the 7 deadly sins is growing in prominence. Mike Flanagan’s latest horror miniseries follows his other Netflix projects and, like The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass, the Edgar Allan Poe poem and short story-inspired series delivers on the scares. However, Fall of the House of Usher also risks Flanagan’s Netflix legacy in a crucial way: it leverages elements of comedy — namely parody — in order to lambast the titular family at its center. Based on Poe’s short fiction of the same name, the series sees twins Roderick and Madeline Usher outgrow their humble beginnings and seize control of Fortunato, a massive pharmaceutical company.
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The Usher family tree may be complex, but the clan is clearly very much inspired by the real-like Sackler family. The owners of Purdue Pharma, the company responsible for producing Oxycontin and marketing it as non-addictive, have long evaded accountability for their part in creating the opioid epidemic in the U.S. In Flanagan’s miniseries, the horror master leverages his genre — and the fictional House of Usher painkiller Ligodone — to provide a searing commentary on people like the Sacklers. Of course, The Fall of the House of Usher also pays homage to its Poe roots by killing off Roderick Usher’s six heirs in gruesome ways. Plus, it wouldn’t be a proper tribute if the characters’ arcs and deaths didn’t reflect some loftier symbolism.
The Usher Family Represents The Seven Deadly Sins – Theory Explained
A fan-made theory that’s quickly gaining traction on Reddit posits that the members of the Usher family each represent one of the seven deadly sins. Also referred to as the cardinal sins, these vices have a strong presence in Christian teachings and, as a result, Western literature. Often described as the opposite of virtues, the seven deadly sins most often encompass pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth. That said, although the Usher family has eight core members, the theory suggests that twins Madeline and Roderick are guilty of the same sin, with Roderick’s six children each embodying the remaining vices.
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There’s no doubt that The Fall of the House of Usher is drenched in symbolism, from Flanagan’s keen use of color to his many, many allusions to Poe’s larger body of work. Not to mention, there’s the ever-mysterious Verna and House of Usher’s jester figure. Still, the seven deadly sins theory remains one of the most compelling to come out of the hit series. According to theorists, each of the Usher kids’ storylines revolve around their vice and tie together rather inextricably with their brutal deaths. Madeline and Roderick, meanwhile, are tethered to the story’s largest, overarching sin, as they made Fortunato the predatory company it is throughout the show.
Madeline & Roderick Represent Greed
Siblings the undeniably bad Madeline and Roderick Usher had an undoubtedly difficult upbringing: their mother died when they were still young and their birth father — who’d had an extramarital affair with their mom — wanted nothing to do with them. Despite being the rightful heirs to Fortunato, Roderick and Madeline had to start in the mail room and scheme their way to the top. The duo made a pact in their younger days, one that put wealth and success above all else. In their thirst for money and power, the greedy siblings lost any semblance of a moral compass, fully giving into their cardinal sin.
Perry Represents Lust
Perry, a.k.a. Prospero, is the youngest Usher child and very clearly aligned with the sin of lust. His entire storyline revolves around orchestrating a bawdy bacchanal in an abandoned Fortunato warehouse. In fact, Perry is so blinded by his lust for sex and money that he doesn’t think to check out the factory’s acid-filled sprinkler system in advance of his bash. Not to mention, his pre-death chat with Verna centers on the anticipation of something being better than the action itself — a mindset that aligns with lust and carnality. Verna makes a point of calling Perry “beautiful,” only to see him eaten alive and marred by acid.
Camille Represents Envy
Camille, the family’s spin master, is most closely aligned with envy, though she certainly has quite a few other cardinal sins to her name. Still, the PR whiz is mostly portrayed as jealous and insecure, especially when it comes to her sister, Victorine. From Camille’s point of view, Vic is incredibly successful and on the brink of changing the world — something Camille just can’t stomach. This pushes her to intrude into Vic’s lab, with Camille’s search for anti-Vic ammo leading to her brutal demise. Before she dies, Camille’s listens to Verna monologue about her dislike of Vic and how that envy turned her into something monstrous.
Leo Represents Sloth
Napoleon, who is better known as Leo, is the Usher sibling who’s aligned with the sin of sloth. In addition to doing a lot of drugs, Leo is pretty much defined by the fact that he takes credit for other people’s successes. Point and case, he’s the only Usher sibling who doesn’t really work for a living; instead, he funnels all of his money into a video game company, funding the artistry and success of others.
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This allows him to lay back and enjoy a lavish lifestyle. Just before his own death, Leo kills his boyfriend’s cat, Pluto, and attempts to cover up the murder. This leads him to have a series of visions, in which the apex predator is stalking him, hiding in the apartment walls, and leaving bloody gifts behind. Ultimately, his sloth unlocks a kind of madness that ends in his untimely demise early on in The Fall of the House of Usher.
Vic Represents Pride
Victorine’s entire sense of self hinges on her work. She hides her failures from everyone: case and point, when her episode 1 chimp subject dies on the table, she won’t record it — she won’t even admit the truth to her father (and funder). Clearly, Vic is the embodiment of pride. Verna asks the wannabe scientist what’s more important “being famous or saving lives?” and it’s very clear that Vic’s answer is fame and success. In order to reach her end goal, Vic manipulates people, lies, and even kills. Unable to face her failures, Vic hears the incessant chirping of her defunct heart machine, beating endlessly until she takes her own life.
Tamerlane Represents Gluttony
A consumer to her core, Tamerlane represents gluttony. For the entirety of Mike Flanagan’s Netflix horror series, she’s obsessed with launching her lifestyle platform, Goldbug. In fact, she’s convinced herself that it will change everyone’s views on her disgraceful family. Ever-deluded, Tamerlane reveals that she selected her husband, Bill, because he was a marketable guy who could help be the face of Goldbug. Instead of having a real relationship with him, she sits back and consumes his interactions with sex workers. In the end, Tamerlane’s cool exterior crumbles. In the wake of her siblings’ deaths, she still tries to launch her product. In the end, her gluttony consumes her, and she’s unable to truly face reality. It makes her death-by-mirror all the more impactful.
Frederick Represents Wrath
The eldest Usher sibling, Frederick — a.k.a. Froderick — is one of the few family members who only shows his true, monstrous colors as the series progresses. After finding out that his wife, Morella, lied to him and attended Perry’s orgy, Frederick is consumed with wanting revenge. Clearly the embodiment of wrath, he decides to actively subdue his wife’s healing process in order to feel better about himself. Simmering with anger and self-loathing, Frederick finds a fittingly violent end at the conclusion of his The Fall of the House of Usher storyline.