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Cooper Williams
Cooper Williams

The Mask Of The Red Death (1)

Poe's story follows many traditions of Gothic fiction and is often analyzed as an allegory about the inevitability of death, though some critics advise against an allegorical reading. Many different interpretations have been presented, as well as attempts to identify the true nature of the eponymous disease. The story was first published in May 1842 in Graham's Magazine and has since been adapted in many different forms, including a 1964 film starring Vincent Price. Poe's short story has also been alluded to by other works in many types of media.

The Mask of the Red Death (1)

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At the chiming of midnight, the revelers and Prospero notice a figure in a dark, blood-splattered robe resembling a funeral shroud. The figure's mask resembles the rigid face of a corpse and exhibits the traits of the Red Death. Gravely insulted, Prospero demands to know the identity of the mysterious guest so they can hang him. The guests, too afraid to approach the figure, instead let him pass through the six chambers. The Prince pursues him with a drawn dagger and corners the guest in the seventh room. When the figure turns to face him, the Prince lets out a sharp cry and falls dead. The terrified revelers become enraged surge into the black room and forcibly remove the mask and robe, only to find to their horror that there is nothing underneath. Only then do they realize the costume was the Red Death all along, having "come like a thief in the night", and all of the guests contract and succumb to the disease. The final line of the story sums up, "And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all."

It was towards the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence. It was a voluptuous scene that masquerade.

Horror writer Stephen King, who cites Poe as a major influence, describes the three levels of horror storytelling as disgust, horror, and terror. Disgust is the reaction to something shocking or gory, such as a blood splattered corpse. Horror is the reaction to something perceived as unnatural, like a reanimated corpse. Terror is the highest level of fear. Terror is the result of the imagination being put in conflict with reality, where people must decide whether to trust their own senses or not. The masked figure represents all of these levels for Prospero and his friends, instilling in them the sense of terror that Poe hoped to instill in his readers by playing on their fear and denial of the Red Death.

The rooms are ordered from east to west, matching the sun's path across the sky, beginning with blue and ending with black. The course of a day is a common metaphor for the transience of life. The color blue, associated with the sky, can represent vitality and the start of a new day. Black is commonly associated with death and night. The ordering of the rooms can be read as a metaphor for the stages of life, with blue representing birth and black representing death.

The most common element on Earth, iron is a frequent symbol of vitality and protection in folklore. When humans discovered that iron could be extracted from veins in the ground, it became a symbol for the lifeforce of the earth. It is considered the most human metal and is thought to be able to repel ghosts and other supernatural entities. Most graveyards are built with iron gates in order to prevent the spirits of the dead from getting out, providing a sense of separation between the living and the dead. Prospero and his friends built the gate to keep death out, but now they are the ones who are fenced in.

Symbolically, light equates to life and darkness equates to death. Thus, the "expired" flames are a metaphor for the absence of life due to the Red Death. That final, dramatic line of the short story voices its theme nearly explicitly: "...Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all." From the grotesque description of the Red Death's effects on the human body to the massacre at the masque, it is clear that death befalls all. Under even ostensibly joyous occasions as a masque, death cannot be escaped or ignored.

The author's description of the "mummer" and its very cadence- a "solemn and measured step"- are reminiscent of the ebony clock. The ephemeral nature of mortality, as alluded to by the clock, may also be interpreted as the inevitability of death, a theme supported by the fact that "none...put forth hand to seize [the mummer]".

Imagery is once again Poe's friend; the reader can easily picture a "tall and gaunt" figure with the "countenance of a stiffened corpse." This description is meant to evoke disgust in the reader. Evidently, this being is a symbol of death as Poe all but spells out that it is the Red Death, another indicator being that it looks exactly like a corpse. Such an obvious symbol supplements the motif of death and human deterioration.

Herod the Great was Roman royalty, known for his great feats of construction and architecture. The allusion to Herod is not altered significantly, if at all, for it is used in reference to "decorum." This allusion helps the author communicate the magnitude of the new masked figure's presence, for it has more of an effect on the crowd than the elaborate party itself.

This selections includes elements of symbolism and imagery that contribute to an overarching disquieting tone. The chamber's location- "most westwardly of the seven"- holds symbolic significance; in primitive cultures as well as in the Christian faith, west represents darkness and death. That tenet is reinforced through imagery as the reader can effectively picture that waning night, the ruddy light in the "blood-colored panes." All of these factors are meant to unsettle the reader or beget some vaguely anxious sentiment, fully realized once the Red Death makes an appearance.

The "gigantic clock of ebony" is symbolic of mortality, a conclusion drawn due to the tone of this particular section of the passage as well the context of the events in the passage. Its "dull, heavy, monotonous clang" cannot be ignored by those in attendance at the masque, a reminder that time marches on and perhaps their time in this life is almost up. The fact that the musicians and "whole gay company" pause, that the "giddiest grew pale," makes for a foreboding tone, which is plausible in the sense that the clock serves as a reminder of their own inevitable deaths.

The word choice of this selection creates a clear picture of the chamber, a setting that bolsters the motif of death. The phrases "blood-tinted panes," "ghastly," and "wild a look" allow the reader to visualize a dark, gloomy room, a room one would naturally avoid as its countenance is less than welcoming. Thus, the use of imagery contributes to the sinister mood of the story.

This particular section of the passage elucidates the contrast of "Beauty," ostensibly represented by Prince Prospero's party, and "the 'Red Death'". That contrast is truly the difference between what is presented and what is reality, the frivolous party being the facade or superficial appearance with death being the reality. Interestingly enough, Poe describes how "security [was] within" the masque; by the end of the story, death itself has thoroughly infiltrated the scene, alluding to the theme that even the most vibrant aspects of life succumb to death.

It might be contended that the people inside the abbey were not the least bit unaware of, or indifferent to, the Red Death, but were indulging in all of their pleasure and dissipation in order to keep from thinking about death. Poe seems to be comparing Prince Prospero and his guests with many of us who are alive today. We know we are going to have to die someday, but we don't want to think about it.

Like the writing of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, Poe's writing falls into the category of Dark Romanticism. The Dark Romantics were a sub-genre of Romanticism, which was more a celebration of beauty, nature, and life. As the name implies, Dark Romanticism explore the grim and frightening nature of humanity and death. The Dark Romantics embodied evil in figures such as Satan, vampires, ghouls, ghosts, and devils. This was the far end of the spectrum from Romantics and Transcendentalists, who thought there was perfection in mankind.

Edgar Allan Poe was a famous American short story writer and poet who is notable for his contributions to the American Romantic movement. Although he is perhaps best known for his poem, 'The Raven,' Edgar Allan Poe wrote many poems and short stories before his untimely death in 1849 at the age of 40. Poe published 'The Masque of the Red Death' in 1842, and like much of Poe's work, it is considered an exemplar of the Gothic fiction genre.

The clock does not disrupt the masquerade for long, however. People keep partying until it strikes midnight. Then, a mysterious figure shows up, which is disturbing because the doors to the abbey are welded shut to keep all the plague-infested people out. The figure is dressed in a bloody robe, and the figure's mask is designed to look like someone who has died from the Red Death.

Prospero chases the figure through the abbey until he corners the figure in the creepy room, which is the room farthest to the west. When the stranger looks at Prospero, Prospero drops dead. The other noblemen corner the stranger and unmask him. Once he is unmasked, they realize that he does not possess a body. Everyone in the abbey catches the Red Death and dies.

In "The Masque of the Red Death", a plague is sweeping the countryside. It kills quickly and in a grotesque manner. The victim develops red blotches and bleeds through the skin. Prince Prospero invites one thousand people to his abbey fortress to be the designated survivors as the plague ravages the kingdom. Those invited believe they have been spared this horrible death and have eluded the plague. The gates are sealed and no one can enter or leave. 041b061a72


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