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EdgarAllen Poe`s "Masqueof the Red Death"
Publishedin 1842, TheMasque of the Red Death’is by Edgar Allen Poe`s which was first published under the title‘themask of the red death: A Fantasy’.The story is referred as an allegory, and entails Prince Prospero’sefforts to avoid a dangerous plague known as ‘RedDeath’,that has been killing individuals causing havoc in the country (Poe25). With reference to the story, the scene at which it takes placeis the castellated abbey this is the place in which prince Prosperotakes refuge with a thousand other people in order to be safe fromthe deadly plague, which had invaded the region/country. This paperis an autobiographical description of the influences of the deadly aswell as the mediaeval plague with reference to the Poe’sdescription of the plague in the story, ‘TheMasque of the Red Death’ (Sodaro28).
EdgarAllan Poe is an American author who is known to have lived betweenthe years 1809-1849, and referred in American literature as thefounder of detective story. He is well known for has mystery andgothic elements in his writings, and was the inventor of the genrereferred to as science fiction. Poe grew up during the time themenace of tuberculosis outbreak had taken toll in America and inturn, those relating to his story the plagues TheMasque of the Red Death.Both his sister and mother died as a result of the tuberculosismenace. The representation of the disease ‘TheRed Death’by the author is factious. According to Poe, the disease is signifiedwith signs such as sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, which is laterfollowed by profuse bleeding through the body pores, which was sosevere that it led to death with an hour after infection (Dudley169).
Theuse of the red death by the has a deep meaning reflecting his reallife as well as the plague that was sweeping through the countrykilling more than half of the residents. This scene resembles thesetting of the book as the characters die of the unknown, but fatalplague that is sweeping almost everyone.
Themain character (Prince Prospero), is the owner of the abbey where heinvites his close friends thinking this would save them from theplague. Despite his dislike of death, he ends dying through thepainful infection from the red death infection. Prince attempts toignore death and instead focus more on having a life full ofpleasure, within the party where the Prince and his friends arehiding, there is a moving masked stranger which signifies death. Themenaces of tuberculosis were equally a stranger as people couldn’tfigure out what was causing death, which as painful, as well as noone was safe from it. The motive of the masked stranger is only tobring death. The occurring of the black plague was an inspiration tothe writing of the story by the author. The plague was gruesome, asit killed the infected people few days after being infected. Theauthor additionally has used the darker tone to present the maintheme which is death hence associated with death (Poe nd).
Theauthor strikes fear in the reader’s eyes as the story takes him/herthrough the cycle of suffering from the plague all the way to death. There is a terrible disease that is sweeping almost everyone infectedin the process. The disease was gruesomely fatal with only less thana half of the people surviving the plague. Prince Prospero, who islabeled a coward leaving his subjects behind while taking a few withhim to the isolation. The Poe’s story was greatly inspired bytuberculosis, however, at that time the disease was referred asconsumption.The author’s wife was suffering from the tuberculosis disease atthe time he was writing the story, which is the case with theprotagonist in the story Prince Prospero whose wife was sufferingfrom ‘TheRed Death’.Like the king, Poe tried to play down the fatality of the infection.Poe’s mother, brother and his foster mother all died oftuberculosis disease. With reference to the story, not only does thered death symbolize death, but also being likened to thetuberculosis, a disease that affected a host of people that theauthor dearly loved. In the story prince Prospero is also a symbol,as his name and all that is related to him is ironic or acontradiction (Poend).
Atsome point the prince attempted to face the red deathsingle-handedly. Six of the seven rooms in the created hide out thesymbolism by the Prince are furnished with different colored glasses.The blue color represented the insanity of the Prince and his guestsin the hideout. The purple represented goodness, green on the otherhand represented their naivety and greed, as all the people in thesecured house are naïve as they thought they can cheat death by justhiding behind iron bars. Whit color meant childlike innocence, thisis depicted as the prince and his guests have a very juvenilementality as they had the idea they could escape the inevitable.Color orange represented the environment, and violent color stood fordusk or the end time of their lives, and finally the black-roomsignified death, and the clock was to signify the passing of time(Poend).
Theexistence of tuberculosis at the time writing the story was signifiedwith the red death, which was affecting the characters in the books.Prospero takes caution against the plague as he fortifies the abbeywith iron gates and lofty walls all in the name of saving himself andthe 1000 guests from the menace of the deadly red death plague. Justlike the way tuberculosis claimed people’s lives, the red death hada similar devastating impact towards the Prospero community. It wasregarded is one of the fatal pestilence as it continued to claim thelife’s of the revelers one by one (Sodaro 31). If one as infectedwith a deadly plague, he/she suffered from very severe and sharppains, dizziness and then blood oozing from the orifices withdissolution.
Alsoknown as consumption,tuberculosis, or the white plague was the main causing factor behindthe massive number of deaths in the then industrialized countriesthan any other known disease. At the time Poe was writing this story,one in every seven deaths in Europe one was as a result of TB, deaththe only way that was known to control were to isolate the infectedpeople from the larger community. With reference to the story by Poe,the isolation which was done by the prince and his 1000 revelers wasa precaution to prevent them from the red death plague which waslikened to tuberculosis (Poend).The separation of the infected people from the larger community isstill practiced today as a measure to curb the spread of the menace.The same scenario was imposed when the prince isolated himself fromthe rest of the community in a concealed room with his people.
Oneof the measures that were applied in the fight against the menace ofthe TB in the early time was through isolation of the affected peoplein the community. The presence of the abbey was seen as a place ofconfinement, which was supposed to hind the prince and his levelersfrom the menace of the red death. It’s used to give the story athreatening atmosphere as it was the case of the secluding peoplefrom their loved ones. One of the major theme sings the story themasque of the red death, is that ‘no one escapes death. Thishappens when at the end or of the story, one by one dies from the reddeath plague which was sweeping all the lives that It comes along(Sodaro 34). Despite the move by the prince to hide himself and anumber of his beloved revelers, they are still following there by themysterious killing plague. This meant that there was no chance toescape death.
Inconclusion, the masque of the red death relevance was equal to theimpact the tuberculosis in the early time and after the menace thered death caused to the prince, his people and to the communityleading to the acknowledgement of the red death who had come to themlike a thief in the night. Like many of the Poe’s works in writing,“TheMasque of the Read Death,”he has excellently used symbolism to present his theme as well asmake his literature enjoyable to the leader. The story excellentlyrepresented the influences that were experienced and posed by thedeadly plague, which is likened to the tuberculosis menace that wasthere during the same time the story was being written.
Eventhough the author wasn’t not intending for the story to be anallegory, it just appears to be classified as one, the story is fullof fantasy and mystery not forgetting a host symbolism that is foundthrough the story. Poe has done a commendable job through this storydetails, but his use of imagery and symbolism has stood out. By useof the deadly plague ‘the red death’ and the coincident with thedevastating impact of tuberculosis has been well represented by theauthor. It’s clear that, the author’s life and his work arerelated as the protagonist and the author undergoes the sameexperience fighting death from a fast sweeping plague that is killingalmost everyone who comes into contact with. As Poe’s feels thepain of death of his close relatives and friends, so does the maincharacter (protagonist) from story ‘masqueof the red death’.
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Poe,Edgar A. TheMasque of the Red Death.New York: World Syndicate Pub. Co, n.d.. Print.
Sodaro,Craig. "The Masque Of The Red Death." Plays- TheDrama Magazine For Young People 73.7(2014): 25-34. AcademicSearch Premier.Web. 24 Apr. 2015.
Dudley,David R. "Dead Or Alive: The Booby-Trapped Narrator Of Poe`s`Masque Of The Red Death`." StudiesIn Short Fiction 30.2(1993): 169. AcademicSearch Premier.Web. 24 Apr. 2015.