The manner in which Poe addresses the topic of class differences and the struggle for power with his fictional characters resounds of his own struggles in his personal life. However, unlike in Hop Frog and the Masque of the Red Death, he was never himself able to emerge wholly victorious over his adversaries, including the publishing industry. In addition, Poe’s characters appear to hint that while wealth may be the source of power for many, the correct use of information itself is the surest path to the acquisition of power.
In the story by his name, Hop-Frog is not only physically dwarfed by the King but is dwarfed in terms of bodily capabilities, wealth, social standing, and even in numbers as he and Trippetta are but two against the King and his 7 ministers. However, Hop-Frog emerges victorious, as his mental capabilities are seemingly far greater than the Kings. The King is described as having “an especial admiration for breadth in a jest, and would often put up with length, for the sake of it” (Poe, 502). It becomes apparent that the King is not a smart man and his jester is indeed quite the opposite. The fact that Hop-Frog knows of the King’s weaknesses and tailors a perfect plan for vengeance to fit the occasion of the masque ball is a testament to his creativity and most useful utilization of information. In the Purloined Letter, the useful utilization of information, which is by keeping such information hostage, again allows for great power in government. In these two stories we are given the message that information is most valuable and leads to power. In reality, Poe also made good use of information in order to gain a wider subscriptio...
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... to power may have been Poe’s ideals in Hop-Frog and The Purloined Letter, but the reality of the situation was that monetary wealth was the single most useful means of gaining power, at least in the publishing industry. The Masque of the Red Death was a poignant social commentary on this uneven field of play and Poe’s point of view concerning the wealthy capitalists. Nonetheless, the possibility of altering the rules on the field of play lay not in the hands of the mentally acute and those who possessed information, but completely with those who possessed capital.
Kennedy, Gerald J. A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2001
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Collected Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: The Modern Library 1992
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Unknown Poe. San Francisco: City Light Books 1980
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