The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe Essay

The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe Essay

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Edgar Allen Poe wrote the short story “The Masque of the Red Death” in 1842. While only one character is actually named, Prince Prospero, the story builds apprehension just based on the descriptions and not on dialogue. The narrator is never named and it is a mystery as to this person’s involvement in the story. The ambiguousness of the narrator also helps build the drama throughout the story. “The Masque of the Red Death” tells the story of a group of wealthy people who are trying to ignore and separate themselves from a terrible disease that is sweeping across their country. The disease is swift and brutal and can cause death within 30 minutes. The people infected weep blood from the pores on their faces and bodies, which causes a disturbing visual image. Poe uses the setting and symbolism to reiterate to the reader that death is inevitable.
Poe sets the scene by detailing the horrendous plague that is ravishing the unnamed country. After the disease has killed half of the population of the country, Prince Prospero decides to invite 1,000 of his friends, who are healthy, into seclusion with him in a castle. The location of the abbey is not named either. The absence of the location of the country or abbey makes the reader feel that the story could happen anywhere and makes it more personal. The name of the main character, Prince Prospero, also helps with the setting. Prospero, obviously, implies wealth, prosperity, and a fortunate place in the hierarchy of the system. While most of the country is dying, the Prince wants to lock up himself and his friends and forget the chaos occurring in the outside world. This is the foolish idea of a wealthy person who thinks his status in life and his money can save him from the plague. The s...


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...of the space mimics man’s fear of death. Poe’s life had been shaped by death and perhaps this influenced his writing. His mother had passed away when he was just three years old. His foster mother also passed away, after a long illness. Then, Poe’s wife passed away from illness. These occurrences in his life may have taught him that time is precious and life is not everlasting. No matter how hard a man tries to ignore death, we will all die eventually. Tragically, Poe himself died under mysterious circumstances just as he was turning his life around and becoming successful. The way Poe set the story and the symbolism used throughout clearly drove home the point that life is fleeting.



Works Cited

Poe, Edgar. "The Masque of the Red Death." Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. By Edgar V. Roberts and Robert Zweig. Boston: Longman, 2012. 516-19. Print

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