Setting and Organization in Poe's The Masque (Mask) of the Red Death

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Setting and Organization in The Masque of the Red Death

"The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the 'Red Death,'" (209). As Edgar Allen Poe set the scene for his story, he also created an ominous mood and a sense of suspense supported by the setting. He details the fun and amusement inside the prince's abbey, in contrast to the horror and doom outside, and the reader's curiosity is piqued, because such bliss cannot be maintained for long. Throughout the story Poe explicates and changes elaborate environments to build the suspenseful energy and create a strong structure. In "The Masque of the Red Death," setting is employed to organize motives and action, and to focus the reader on the climax. Poe targets the culminating point of his story using rich descriptions of the abbey, the masquerade, and the clock.

In the beginning, the general situation is explained and the broad location of the story is established. While a dreadful disease ravages the countryside, Prince Prospero and his friends lock themselves up to escape and forget the fate of their neighbors. Their plan is easily identifiable, and the audience can certainly relate to their wish to leave the world behind them and exist in a processed utopia. The description of an isolated and hidden abbey reflects the prince's wish for concealment and his indifference to his responsibilities to the commoners. Poe stresses the magnificent height of the fortress walls and the welded iron gates to enforce an image of strength and protection. He also includes the entrapmen...

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...agraph, the author mentions that the disease had come "like a thief in the night," but this statement is entirely untrue. Poe wrote a cohesive story which acknowledges the fear of trapping oneself in a doomed situation. Ironically, the very place the Prospero built to keep himself safe led to his hideous destruction. However, the audience was never permitted to believe that the prince would escape death, because even Poe's choice of environments reflect the triumph of the plague; the isolation and quarantine of the abbey, the fever and delirium of the masquerade, and finally the progression of time and eventual death. The clock strikes midnight, and with its shadowy expiration, "the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all," (213).

Works Cited

Poe, Edgar Allen. "The Mask of the Red Death." The Works of Edgar Allen Poe. Ann Arbor, MI: State Street Press.
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