Essay on Human Denial in Poe's The Masque (Mask) of the Red Death

Essay on Human Denial in Poe's The Masque (Mask) of the Red Death

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Human Denial in The Masque of Red Death

   In "The Masque of Red Death", Edgar Allen Poe tells a story of human denial

and struggle with death, especially among the wealthy.   Poe uses powerful

images of sensual texture, color and symbols to show the passing of time

and life.


Prince Prospero along with "a thousand hale and lighthearted friends from

among the knights and dames of his court" (202) sought a haven from the

"Red Death" that is devastating the country.  They lived together in the

prince's luxurious abbey with all the amenities and securities imaginable.

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" (202).  Prince Prospero had the gate

bolts of iron welded closed to prevent anyone else to enter or leave. "The

external world could take care of itself" (202).  As if being wealthy means

he is not responsible for the less fortunate and only those few selected

should be cared for.


After the fifth or sixth month together a masquerade is planned, and in

typical "Poesque" fashion the great halls are described in imagery that

foreshadows a horror to follow.   The "masque" takes place in the imperial

suite, which consisted of seven very distinct rooms. Seven being a symbol -

seven wonders of the world, seven deadly sins with seven corresponding

cardinal virtues.  Seven also suggesting the stages of one's life, from

birth to death (Birth, childhood, teenage, young adult, middle age, old age,



... middle of paper ...

...ce Prospero) seeks to hide from

death; however, the Biblical reference (I Thessalonians 5:2-3) at the end

of the story reminds us that  death comes "like a thief in the night" (206).

 Death holds "illimitable dominion over all" (206).


Works Cited and Consulted

Halliburton, David. Edgar Allan Poe: A Phenomenological View. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973.

Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Masque Of The Red Death." Bridges: Literature across Cultures. Eds. Gilbert H. Muller and John A. Williams. New York:         McGraw-Hill, 1994. 495-498.

Wilbur, Richard. "The House of Poe." The Recognition of Edgar Allan Poe. Ed. Eric W. Carlson. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1966.


Womack, Martha. "Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Masque of the Red Death.'" The Poe Decoder. Online. Internet. 20 May 1998.


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