The Masque of The Red Death
The Symbolism in The Masque of Red Death and Young Goodman Brown
Both Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe belong to the late Romanticism in 19th century American Literature, which main characteristic is probably the widest disparity between tragic reality and romantic ideal. Such a gap could be observed in both short stories proposed for discussing in the current task, particularly noted in their closures when a grim denouement abruptly clashes with apparently classical fairy tale’s course of events.
At the level of questions, the heartbreaking conclusion of The Masque of the Read Death seems not to offer major difficulties at first sight, and yet the identity and significance of the title character left open and uncertain. Against all the traditions, and in close relation with the level of expectations, the reader’s confidence in Prince´s fair triumph is profoundly disappointed, as the final dismal picture leads to frustration and despair. In turn, the interpretation of “Young Goodman Brown” becomes a little bit more complex, as two plots could be distinguished there. And while the inner one seemingly resolves all the matters, the frame story does not provide a clear-cut interpretation. Despite the outstanding conviction of the character in the main story, he does not emerge as a winner after all: his spirit is overcome by discouragement, being very close to the blade of doom.
None of the stories satisfies traditional conventions and use the strategy of the ambiguous interpretation in order to wake up the reader’s moral criteria and their ability to co-creation. Instead of providing the final moral lesson in conclusion, both authors prefer to give some hints to elicit further reflection of the audience. Doing so, Hawthorne deliberately arouses suspicion as to questioning, after fulfilled with biblical allegories course of events, whether Goodman Brown had fallen asleep in the forest and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting (Hawthorne, 237). In turn, Poe breaks the atmosphere of pictorial mystery by intriguing remark with religious connotation while comparing the appearance of the man character to that of the thief at night (Poe, 291). With regard to this, closure of both works purposely clash the reader’s expectations. Reflecting the Calvinist background of Hawthorne, his “Young Goodman Brown” delivers clearer moral streak. For the story of The Masque of the Read Death are different interpretations available, none of them provided by Poe. Most would probably agree that the real closure of both works takes place in reader’s mind by converting reflection power into a key component of literary perception. The key role play here the text strategies used in the closure content and structure.
Meaning Analysis of The Masque of the Red Death and Other Stories
“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
The main character introduces his obsession with the old man’s vulture eye. He explains that he watches the old man outside of his bedroom every night at midnight and how once the idea of killing the man entered his brain, it haunted him and was impossible to get rid of until the deed was finished. The most dominant conflict in this story is the one between the main character and the old man. The main characters conflict is not entirely focused on the old man, for the old man never did him any wrong, but it is mainly centered on the fury concerning the vulture eye. Later on the main character wants to get rid of the evil eye forever, and therefore comes up with the idea of killing the man. He watches him every night until he feels he is ready to complete the action. One night the old man hears the door creak and questions who is there. He sits up in his bed all night. The main character shines a ray of light upon his eye and immediately fills with rage at the sight. The old character in the fire of the moment, jumps into the room and kills the old man. He drags his body unto the floor and dragged the heavy bed over him. I felt really sad on how the old man knew nothing about and also how he died for not doing anything. I don’t think the old man had to be killed. Why couldn’t he stay alive?
“The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe
The Masque of the Red Death is about a “Red Death” that has been killing people and devastated the country with the outbreak of the “Red Death” he has a castle for himself and his 1000 friends of the court sealed off from the world, while everyone else suffers. The purpose of this castle was that the “Red Death” was not in it. Five to six months after the castle is built and the prince has been living in it with his 1000 friends he decides to host a masked ball of “unusual magnificence”. The narrator begins to talk about the seven different and unusual rooms in the palace. After the narrator finishes describing every room he explains the clock. Every hour the clock would chime and the orchestra and everyone stops and everyone turned pale but they say the next time that clock strikes they will not stop, but they still stop the next time it chimes. I believe the most significant meaningful passage from this short story was knowing all the selfish things that the “Red Death” does. When he lives in a castle with 1000 of his friends while they’re people struggling outside. He doesn’t really care about what’s going on. He’s all about the seven rooms and all about them.
“Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving
This short story takes place a few years before the American Revolution and ends twenty years later. It takes place in a village in New york, near the Hudson River and the Kaatskill Mountains. The conflict in this short story is Rips constant desire to be free of his wife’s nagging and condescending behavior leads him to escape into the woods. In the woods he runs into the strange men. Rip falls asleep for 20 years. Rip Van Winkle goes into town realizing the scenery is different and he does recognize anyone or anything. This is significant because it shows the point where the story turns around. The change in setting translates back to the theme of change. Winkle later on finds out that his wife is dead, and with finding out this news, he is overjoyed. Winkle goes to live with his daughter and continues to live in idleness even after 20 years.
I can see that Rips wife never really liked him and that he didn’t really like her. They didn’t really value each other like that. She was always so mean and harsh to him. Wonder how his feelings must’ve felt. The values expressed in this short story are really difficult to spot but i feel that the values they shared didn’t really go together which made Rip not care not one bit.
The Narrator’s Symbolism in Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death and Tell-Tale Heart
You know that feeling you get when you read or watch a scary story? Your heart is in your throat, you run for your life up the stairs thinking someone is chasing you, and when you can’t fall asleep at night type of feeling? For me, it’s not exactly an enjoyable sensation, but for some it is. But why do we love to scare ourselves so much? Is it because of the thrill we get, the satisfaction, or the natural high from the fight or flight response? This sensation I got while I was reading “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, and “The Masque of the Red Death.” Poe was trying to use fear in his stories to attract us readers into the gothic world. Poe’s life had so much unhappiness, ever since his parent’s early death, from him being an adopted orphan, to his stepfather disowning him, and his wife who died a few years prior to their marriage. Because of his search for security and love, his life seems to have been an unsolved struggle; so too it isn’t surprising the way he chooses to write his stories, with such death, horror, fear, and madness. Death plays an important scene in almost all of Poe’s poems. Just like in “The Fall of the House of Usher” Roderick buries his sister alive and dies at the end with her too. “The Tell-Tale Heart” the narrator, who was a nameless murderer kills an innocent man because of his vulture eye. And everyone dies in “The Masque of the Red Death.”
Also, Poe’s settings in his poems emphasize a lot of mysterious dark gloomy surroundings throughout the stories to set up fear and to get us, the readers more involved. Then again, lots of people enjoy these scary situations because it makes you more confident. For example, I’ve been to many haunted houses and at first, my friends forced me into it, but once I made it through, I thought to myself “yes I did it! I made it out alive” which gave me a boost of self-esteem. Edgar Alan Poe’s poems had so much madness and horror because he wanted to capture the reader’s attention, or perhaps writing about death and fear gave Poe answers to his questions he has been looking for. Questions like, why his life was so hard, why his loved one had to die so soon, and why he was still alive and alone. Or maybe he even wrote these poems to escape from the world.
Great Master of Words and Intricate Plot in ‘The Masque of The Red Death’
After Edgar was kicked out of West Point he went to live with his Aunt and Cousin Virginia. His cousin was only 8 years old then. After he left them to work he Got news that Virginia would be sent away. In a Frantic state of mind he begins to drink and confesses his love for her in a letter to his Aunt. Soon they become married him 27 years old and Virginia only 13. They lied about her age and said she was 21. Their marriage is described to have been more like brother and sister rather than husband and wife. He adored her and was happy with her but 6 years into their marriage Virginia developed Tuberculosis and died five years later. Virginia was the fourth woman Poe had loved and died. While Virginia was sick Poe tried to make ends meet and write but became a drunk and could not afford to feed her or get her medicine. He wrote “The Raven” While she was sick but only made 14 dollars enough to move to a cottage. He embodied his eternal love for Virginia in the poem “Annabel Lee”. In an essay by Cynthia Bily analyzing the “Annabel Lee” poem by Edgar Allan Poe she points out all the hints that the poem is about his love for Virginia. She talks about how in the poem he writes about how the angels envied her and their love and the resentment Annabel’s kings men had about their relationship. There are clues that the angels were people in society that did not approve of their marriage and the kings men is the family members that did not approve as well. Cynthia believes that the purpose of the poem is not only to show the love they shared but to show the people that disapproved that their criticism and negativity did not stop or hinder their love for each other.
Edgar Allan Poe wrote many short stories. Although he wrote many detective stories one of his most famous short stories is “The Masque of the Red Death”. The story is about a Prince called Prince Prospero who is running away from and trying to avoid a sickness that is taking over and the country. He is trying to escape by locking himself in a castle with a thousand friends. He believes if he parties with his friends and has fun death will skip over him. Somehow the disease enters the castle and one by one everyone dies.
Poe was experienced with death and knew how death would come to everyone eventually it was just a matter of time. No matter what Poe did in his life death was always around taking people one by one like in the story. It is said that the Red Death stands for tuberculosis. All of the woman he loved and was close to die of this disease along with his brother. First his mother when he was 3, then his foster mother Mrs. Allan when he was 20, then his brother William when he was 22 and his loving wife and Cousin Virginia when he was 33. In the story the Ebony clock is mentioned and focused on. It is a symbol that death is always coming for you and time is ticking away. The colors of the rooms in the castle are symbolic to Poe’s progression in life. Blue represents birth, purple represents youth, green represents adolescence, orange represents adulthood , white represents old age, violet represents imminent death , and black represents death itself. In Tracy Caldwell’s analysis essay over “The masque of the Red Death” she goes in depth of the seventh room. The seventh room has the Ebony clock that represents time ticking away till death and the windows are stained red to represent blood. She goes into detail about how the Black room can also be a hint to the Black Death known now as the Plague. Most people believe that Edgar Allan Poe’s work had hints about the future such as the Plague.
Some of Edgar’s short stories and poems have a vague meaning to them. You have to think hard about them to see why he wrote it and how he used his own life for inspiration. One of those types of short stories is “The Pit and the Pendulum”. In this story the narrator is being tortured and imprisoned. He is thrown in a cell that has a giant pit located in the center. And given bread and water that has some drugs in it to make him sleep. When he regains consciousness he notices he is strapped to a table. He is offered food and soon sees rats coming to eat it. He stares at the ceiling to see a pendulum swinging back and forth above him gradually getting closer to his body. He was hopeful he would escape but still scared as he rubs the food on the straps and the rats chew the food and the straps freeing him. He is then put back into the cell and notices the walls are hot and moving closer to him forcing him closer the pit. Right before he falls into the pit the French General catches him and saves him informing him they have taken over the prison.
This story may seem like just a dark suspenseful story by Poe but it is really him explaining how he has felt in his life. At the start of his childhood he was alone and hopeless with his father leaving and mother dying. When he was adopted he felt imprisoned by Mr. Allan and his gruffness. He never felt loved by him only by Mrs. Allan. His first crush, Jane Stanard died when he was 15. She was the mother of a school friend and died of brain cancer. Whenever he was unhappy he would go to her for support. He wrote the poem “To Helen” about his love for her. He became depressed for a short time after her death resembling the prison. Thought his life he has been depressed and can never catch a break. He never earned a lot of money doing anything. While in college he went in debt of 2,000 dollars just for food and clothes. He tried gambling to make the money back but unfortunately never got good enough to make anything. He became a drunk to hide his shame from himself and make him forget everything going wrong. Kind of like the drugged water to make him forget how the cell was laid out and be unconscious while they move him to other areas. When he joined the Army, he used a different name so the debt collectors couldn’t find him and he published a book and soon was kicked out for neglecting his duties. He then published his second book while studying at west point but never made any money off of any publication. He was a prisoner of the lower class but was hopeful it would turn around like with the pendulum. Some say the breaking of the straps and the rats resembles how Virginia made him feel inside. Although he was in a terrible situation the rats helped him stay hopeful and saved his life. Even when his writing wasn’t going well or he was being hated by people because of his critiquing she was there for him to cheer him up and keep him hopeful things were going to get better. The cell collapsing on him with heated walls can symbolize the process of Virginia dying slowly with tuberculosis and her death. It was a long, hard process trying to make money and keep her alive. The general saving him is his death. He had nothing and no one to live for. Even after Virginia’s death he was trying to find a wife so he wouldn’t have to die alone. He was a drunken wreck and was finally at peace when he died. His dying words were God help my poor soul. Poe wrote about how glorious death would be and how he couldn’t wait to see the woman he loved again. Patricia Cohen wrote an article for the New York Times called “Poe’s Cottage, Weak and Weary No More.” In the article talks about how poor Poe was and even living in a cottage he couldn’t keep Virginia warm and fed. If he was alive now he would have had enough money to do anything he wanted. In the Magill Book Review they review the pain and torture the narrator went through but he still was calm though some of the issues he faced. He can’t always trust his senses and he figures that out when the room isn’t like he thought it was just like with Poe’s writings. He thought he was writing amazing work but the public thought it was too dark and hated it.
Although Poe’s wasn’t popular in his time he is one of the most popular writers of our time. It’s sad to think that even after “The Raven” was written that he got so little out of it. He only accumulated 6,200 dollars over his 18 years of writing. He did so much for literature and the education system that is active today. There is no doubt that Edgar Allan Poe’s life inspired his poems and stories. His life may have not been the base of everything that he has written but it is the reasoning behind a good amount of his writings.
Analysis Of “The Masque Of The Red Death” By Edgar Allan Poe
The story of Prince Prospero and the people within his kingdom allowed me to see how the idea of disestablishment constantly fueled the fear of death rapidly approaching them. Since a plague wiped out many of their people around the country already, each begins to wonder when they will be next. Disestablishment caused the characters to be uncertain as to what their fate will be and made me as a reader imagine certain things that could happen in the storyline. With things all out of sort and not orderly with the disease spreading around them, there is an uncertainty among the people. Poe did a tremendous job in creating a plot which death and sickness acts as an unavoidable way of life since the world was in a sense of disintegration.
Things are not normal in this story because only rarely does a disease of this magnitude break out and cause this much panic and unreasonable thinking. An example of how disestablishment advances the story’s horror was at the beginning that said, “The Red Death had long devasted the country” that tells me events are occurring causing people to die and live differently than they might have before it broke out. Poe then goes on to say, “When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends…. To the deep seclusions of one of his castellated abbeys.” This tells me that the disease has spread rapidly, causing the Prince to retreat to a castle with one thousand of his closest friends. As someone who had never read much of Poe, I have seen many movies and shows about diseases and fictional outbreaks, so the background to this story really showed me how horror has evolved and how directors use their plots and other elements to portray it for the reader. Poe also notes that they are his “dominions” which shows that he thinks for them or make decisions on their behalf since he is their leader. A deep seclusion tells me that this abbey is hidden and could act as a fortress against the disease, or a place where it can spread within the walls very easily if exposed.
The clock was a very important symbol that uses disestablishment to advance horror in the story, “the hour was to be stricken, there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud…. The musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause.. giddiest grew pale… more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows.” The sound of the clock causes people to stop what they are doing because it reminds them that death is one hour closer to reaching them in the abbey. Imagining this while reading gave me the goosebumps because it’s like someone wanted all their attention and to remind them they were around and quickly approaching, which in this case it was death. If there wasn’t a disease or plague around them, I don’t think they would have stopped for the ringing of the bell, which tells me things aren’t the way they used to be, and other events are playing out. An example of disintegration was when Prince Prospero sees the intruder and says, “who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery?….that we may know whom we have to hang at sunrise…” The Prince makes a huge mistake here using the phrase “we have to” because it showed how he feared for his death and wasn’t taking any chances making it come sooner. He was very quick to say that they had to be executed while having no idea who it was, while in his case he thought it was the Red Death.
I thought he was psychologically mad when he said this because he had already created an environment where emotion and feelings essentially couldn’t exist. Since the Prince was so afraid of becoming sick, he ended up losing his own mind trying to protect himself and his people before the Red Death could reach them. Disestablishment allowed me as a reader to picture the story in my head and make assumptions or ideas about what could happen next. With so many questions and uncertainty around Prince Prospero’s mindset and his people, this created the horror of the story.
Allegory As a Significant Device in The Masque of The Red Death Novel
The allegory within the Masque of the Red Death
Edgar Allen Poe was quite the gothic writer in the late 1800s and his work is still quite popular today amongst many. The short passage, “Masque of the Red Death” is an utmost example of a gothic fiction most commonly used by Poe. Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” was published, in part as a tribute to a deadly plague which was deteriorating the country at the time but also in part as a story of how death affects each and every one of us from a very young age and that Death is the inevitable end to everyone. The story is as though Prince Prospero takes members of his kingdom and hides them away so as to not be affected by the plague that is terrorizing his kingdom but condemns them all the same. Symbolism is one of the most common ways to reveal an allegory in a work of literature. Throughout the story, the allegory is enforced by major personnel, in this instance, Prince Prospero, the abbey, including all seven rooms, the chiming clock and the masked figure all support the allegory by symbolizing certain instances in which the moral is supported.
Prince Prospero is a symbol as well as a contradiction within himself. He is described as prosperous and sagacious but he is in fact killed by the red Death and is not very intelligent because he attempted to take on the Red Death single handedly. The belief is also that Prospero could represent the idea that we become aware of death at a very young age. For instance, when he sees the masked figure to begin with, symbolizing death he is in a blue room, blue symbolizing his youth. In addition to that suggestion, Prospero can also symbolize the superiority that man sometimes thinks he/she has and the distinguishment between social classes. Prince Prospero thought that by separating himself and his guests from the rest of the kingdom, that he could somehow cheat death. Only people of the higher social class were thought worthy enough to escape the pestilence and the ball, which represents how Prospero viewed this class as being more important than any other. Prospero can also symbolize how out of touch the upper class was with the lower classes in society.
The abbey, is another excellent example of enforcing the allegory. According to H. H. Bell Jr. who believes Prospero is insane, “ Assuming that death, even the one that Prospero is trying to escape, is the wage of sin, there would be little allegorical objection to having Prospero seek refuge in in an abbey- a monastery.” (253) This meaning that having Prospero seek refuge in an abbey, symbolizes he is running from sin. Also, the detail that the abbey is secluded with only a way in and no way out suggests it’s a place of confinement and gives it a more threatening atmosphere which is a crucial piece of gothic literature. Within the abbey, each room is a different color and that symbolizes a different stage of life and way of living.The room they start off in, and in which they recognize Death is the blue room. Blue being a symbol for the youth of your life and suggesting that we recognize death at a young age. The second room is purple which is used to symbolize the higher society and class which it is distinguished that Prospero cares deeply for. The third room is green and it suggests prosperity and growth, which is ironic since he chases death throughout it. The fourth room is orange which symbolizes the prime of someone’s life, the autumn, where someone can be considered past his prime but not entirely old. The fifth room is white which symbolizes the past prime or elderly age of life. The sixth room is violet, a color that throughout most of literature symbolizes gravity and chastity and the soberness of extreme old age. It is said that the final room is black which symbolizes death.” (Bell 254) All of this symbolism poured into these rooms suggests that Prospero is chasing death throughout his life and yet is still bested by him.
The clock, within the story for some symbolizes the passing of time and how aware each person is of their own time continuously moving. When the clock chimes in the story, all of the guests fall silent as if startled or frightened that another hour has come to a close, but only within that chiming are they aware of the time that has passed. the clock is also used to symbolize the inevitability of death. Wheat talks about how death can not be contained or avoided, “as transitory as parts of a play”, so it is useless to try to hide from it or contain it. (252) In the story, the guest could not stop the clock from running or the pendulum from continuing its swinging back and forth with the chimes that continued to disrupt their party. As the chimes disrupt the party, it is as though every person is brought from a fairytale to face the reality of death looming about, just for a moment before being thrown back into the joyous thralls of the party once more.
Finally, the masked figure that abruptly interrupts the ball. The stranger behind the mask is Death itself. THe entire muse of a masked figure is allegorically symbolizing the disease infiltrating the solidarity of the abbey and the ball. Poe describes the figure as “tall, and gaunt” which suggests the stranger is in fact an actual physical representation of a person affected by the disease. The stranger symbolizes death embodied and yet when they remove his mask there is a great nothingness. Its as if to say, death has no defined form or shape to himself. The stranger also seems to be the common interpretation that it frightens the guests so much to be around him because they fear him and he reminds them of what and who they have forsaken just to preserve themselves for the sake of their class.
The masque of the red death contains imagery that upholds the story’s intended allegorical meaning, as well as imagery that is open to other personal interpretations. The allegory in Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘Masque of the Red Death’ is that no matter how lavish and thought out the attempts to escape Death are, once you recognize death at such that young age, it will be inevitable to do anything but chase him throughout the rest of your life. This allegory is proven throughout the vital ideas and characters in the story. Prince prospero, the abbey including all seven rooms, the chiming clock, and the masked figure each support the allegory present in the story through symbolism which is one of the most easily identifiable pieces of figurative language when creating an allegory within a story.
Characteristic Of Prince Prospero in The Masque of The Red Death
Within Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” story, Prince Prospero comes out as an immodest character. To this end, Prince Prospero decorates seven party apartments with large amounts of gold. Moreover, Prince Prospero attempts to attack a strange guest who shows up at a sealed off party event. In addition, even though he seeks to escape a calamity, Prince Prospero ferries a troop of entertainers to his abbey. This essay analyses “The Masque of the Red Death” to highlight Prince Prospero’s immodest personality based on the following behaviors: Prince Prospero decorates seven party apartments with large amounts of gold; Prince Prospero attempts to attack a strange guest who shows up at a sealed off party event; and Prince Prospero ferries a troop of entertainers to his abbey hideout.
Given that Prince Prospero decorates seven party apartments with large amounts of gold, Prince Prospero highlights his immodest personality. In light of this idea, it is instructive to bear in mind that these seven apartments are only meant to accommodate Prince Prospero’s party for a single day. This is because, even though Prince Prospero resides within his secluded hideout for at least five months, he only uses these seven apartments to host a single party event (Poe, 1842). Given this fact, a reader would validly argue that, by using much gold to decorate these seven apartments, Prince Prospero illustrates his immodest personality. Considering that he uses these rooms for a single party event, Prince Prospero does not need to use this much gold in making decorations. The fact that gold decorations are scattered all over each of the seven apartments thus illustrates that Prince Prospero is unable to control his impulses. Consequently, Prince Prospero has an immodest personality.
In addition, Prince Prospero attempts to attack a strange guest who shows up at a sealed off party event, thus illustrating his (Prince Prospero’s) immodest personality. While appraising this situation, it is important to note that Prince Prospero has welded the gates to this party venue shut. Consequently, no one can leave or enter this party venue. Further, neither Prince Prospero nor the thousands of fellow revelers can identify this strange guest (Ibid.). It is thus clear that this strange guest is alien to Prince Prospero’s kingdom. Given this information, Prince Prospero should treat the strange guest with caution; this guest evidently has some supernatural powers. Nevertheless, Prince Prospero attempts to attack this strange guest; Prince Prospero draws his sword and menacingly walks towards this guest (Ibid.). Thanks to this behavior, Prince Prospero illustrates his immodest personality. If he were not immodest, Prince Prospero would treat this strange guest with caution.
Considering that, even though he seeks to escape a calamity, Prince Prospero ferries a troop of entertainers to his abbey, Prince Prospero illustrates his immodest personality. In this regard, a devastating plague has stricken Prince Prospero’s kingdom and killed half of his subjects. To evade this plague, Prince Prospero flees to his abbey together with a thousand favorite individuals. Despite this dire situation, Prince Prospero ferries dancers, clowns, and musicians to his abbey (Ibid.). In light of these circumstances, a reader would validly hold that Prince Prospero is immodest. Such immodesty causes Prince Prospero to disregard the fact that his presence at the abbey has been dictated by a troubling situation. Prince Prospero thus brings a troop of entertainers to this abbey hideout. If he were not immodest, Prince Prospero would not bring these entertainers to his abbey.
In conclusion, within, “The Masque of the Red Death”, Prince Prospero illustrates immodest conduct in several ways. For instance, Prince Prospero decorates seven party apartments with large amounts of gold. Further, Prince Prospero attempts to attack a strange guest who shows up at a sealed off party event. Moreover, Prince Prospero ferries a troop of entertainers to his abbey hideout. It would be prudent to find out why Poe depicts Prince Prospero, a royalty figure, as an immodest character.
Similar Themes in 28 Days Later, I Am Legend And The Masque of the Red Death
Horror has a way of affecting those who indulge in its sensitive genre, be it through literature, poetry, movies, and even T.V. shows. It affects its readers and viewers by agitating the emotion humans tend to be most sensitive to: fear. It does this in many different ways by exploring the different kinds of things that evoke fear. A fear of a man-made monster, a seductive vampire that goes against all morally righteous boundaries, or maybe a fear of a serial killer who could be anyone, maybe even your neighbor.
But the fear that that stands out uniquely amongst the typical ones is the fear of disease. Diseases such as cancer, influenza, and AIDS are universally feared diseases. It’s quite possible for anyone to be inflicted with one of these. A close loved one to you can be caught by one of these infections and rapidly begin deteriorating. It’s a terrible thought, but that is why it makes a perfect basis for a terrifying horror story. Gruesome situations and intense underlying themes are prevalent when exploring the epidemic topic in horror stories. The elements in these stories capture the reality of societies’ fear of epidemics today, explaining and describing just why they are so terrifying.
One of the prominent factors in an epidemic horror story is the ever-lingering sense of doom. In Danny Boyle’s movie 28 Days Later, the main character Jim, played by Cillian Murphy, wakes up in a hospital from a coma to discover that not only is the hospital completely empty, so is the entire city of London, due to an infection that causes infinite rage in human beings, compelling them to infect others or eat them.
It’s immediately noticed that Jim appears to be completely alone, whilst he walks around the city in his hospital gown, searching for some sort of life. But the doom sets in as soon as he walks up to a wall that is covered with photos of people who’ve gone missing and letters of those asking for help and declaring utmost panic.
It’s then recognized just how incredibly vulnerable Jim is. His hospital gown and lack of knowledge of the exact cause of what has happened to London doesn’t provide him with any protection for what he is going to encounter. These factors combined create a perfect wave of doom that washes over the viewer. He/she doesn’t know what is going to happen next just like Jim, but the fact that he is vulnerable and ignorant is enough for the viewer to begin feeling very uncomfortable. Something bad is bound to happen, but it’s not known. Therefore, nothing but that dreaded feeling of doom is on the viewers’ mind, waiting and watching for those first signs of the horror that we’re supposed to encounter. The viewer may think he/she is then ready for the inevitable shocking moment, but the doom that has been established makes the coming climactic moment all that much worse. Nothing can be done to prepare the viewer for what’s going to happen: Jim encounters a rage-infected priest who unfortunately isn’t looking for any confessions to feed on but a body to feast upon.
Although one may not compare in one’s head the similarities of this situation to that of a real life problem, the relations to real world diseases is overwhelmingly present with regards to this aspect of the movie.
When an individual has been diagnosed with a treatable but incurable disease such as cancer, the patient and the patients’ loved ones become increasingly afraid. No one knows what will happen, all you can do is treat the problem and hope that it gets better. But, you can’t help but ask yourself some haunting questions. What if it gets worse? What if the patient is overcome by the disease overnight? What if you never get the chance to say goodbye before they’ve completely succumbed to the disease?
This is what makes 28 Days Later a very effective epidemic horror movie. It pushes you to ask yourself these kinds of questions and it brings on that terrible feeling: doom.
Another characteristic that is perfect for an epidemic horror film is the eerie feeling of complete isolation.
Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, is a perfect example of the resulting consequences of being isolated, and even for just a short period of time.
Matheson’s character, Robert Neville, begins facing the reality that he may or may not becoming slightly insane just in the first couple of months without normal human interaction. His mind begins to challenge his moral boundaries, in the subtlest of ways,
He took the woman from her bed, pretending not to notice the question posed in his mind. Why do you always experiment on women? He didn’t care to admit that the inference had any validity. She just happened to be the first one he’d come across, that was all. What about the man in the living room, though? For God’s sake! He flared back. I’m not going to rape the woman! Crossing your fingers, Neville? Knocking on wood? He ignored that, beginning to suspect his mind of harboring an alien. Once he might have termed it conscience. Now it was only an annoyance. Morality, after all, had fallen with society. He was his own ethic. Makes a good excuse, doesn’t it, Neville? Oh, shut up (Matheson).
This situation was resolved quickly, but Neville’s questioning of the validity of mankind’s morals was a result of his isolation from the human race. The longer Neville went without any human contact, the more he questioned his morals.
One aspect of epidemic horror stories branches off into it’s own kind of epidemic horror story. This is the aspect of containment. Containment of disease in horror movies focuses on a larger group of people, unlike I Am Legend and 28 Weeks Later, which is centered on either one person or a very small group of people.
The idea of containment can be more haunting and frightening than an actual battle with individuals who are currently infected with some sort of zombie like disease. Tensions are heightened and individuals feel and become more vulnerable because their primary goal is to keep something out of their group: the disease.
One of the first examples of containment in a horror story would be Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death.
The attendees of Prince Prospero and himself have locked themselves in a lavish Abbey to keep themselves from coming in contact with the Red Death. In this way, the Red Death is being treated as if it’s a disease and it’s shown by precautions the Prince has taken to make sure his Abbey is secure (Poe).
Another bit of evidence that shows the Red Death could be a disease is that it is referred to as an ‘it’ rather than a he or she. Meaning, that whatever the Red Death is, it’s not human, making it that much more scary.
Like previous examples, this story also plays off the feeling of doom to convey the seriousness and the haunting idea of the Red Death entering into the Abbey.
This feeling is found most disturbing when the musicians stop playing suddenly when the bell strikes,
…there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance, to harken to the sound; and thus the waltzers perforce ceased their evolutions; and there was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company; an, while the chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation (Poe).
Soon, the dreaded feeling of doom and paranoia becomes more than a feeling and the Prince, despite his efforts, ultimately fails at keeping the Red Death out, and when the Red Death takes over there is nothing left and “Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.” (Poe)
“The Masque of the Red Death”
The story begins with a description of a plague, the “Red Death,” which has been devastating the country for a long time. The narrator explains the process of the disease, emphasizing the redness of the blood and the scarlet stains. The disease is so deadly that one is dead within thirty minutes after he or she is infected. Poe uses such descriptive words like fatal, horror of blood, sharp pains, profuse bleeding, and victim creating an immediate effect of the horror of death caused by the “Red Death.” Poe then presents the tone of the story as Prince Prospero, a name that implies happiness and prosperity, summons a thousand of his “lighthearted friends” from the nobility to join him in a “castellated abbey” which has strong and lofty walls and “gates of iron.” The prince has very foresighfully provided entertainment of all types, and they are all happy and secure within, while outside the “Red Death” is violently spreading. Poe next shows us his theme by suggesting the recklessness of these foolish people who think that they can escape death by putting physical barriers between them and the plague. Poe also has a lot of symbolism in this story one of them being the last room. The importance of the seven rooms lies in the seventh.
The narrator describes the each rooms, telling us that the window panes look out onto the hall rather than the outside world, and that they take on the colors and hues of the decoration of each room. All the rooms are identified by color except for the last one which is different. In the last room (seventh) the apartment is “shrouded in black velvet,” but the panes are “scarlet — a deep blood-color.” Moreover, this black chamber is the most westerly and “the effect of the firelight upon the blood-tinted panes is ghastly in the extreme and produces so wild a look upon the countenance of those who enter it that there are few . . . bold enough to set foot within it.” Therefore, the significance of the seventh room cannot escape the reader’s attention. Black usually symbolizes death, and it is mostly used in connection with death. Furthermore, in describing the black decor of the room, the narrator says that it is shrouded in velvet, shrouded being a word always referring to death. When the masked “Red Death” makes his appearance, he moves rapidly from the Eastern room, symbolizing the beginning of life, to the Western room, symbolizing the end of life. “The Masque of the Red Death” had many devices but this four are in my opinion the most important ones.
The Significance of the Motif of Denial in The Masque of the Red Death, a Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Denial in “The Masque of the Red Death”
The motif of denial in “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe is important because it helps the reader understand how the prince and his guests can party while the rest of the world is dying. Their denial also makes their realization that they can’t escape the Red Death much more dramatic. One way the reader is shown their denial is when the story reveals that they believe “the external world could take care of itself” and “In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think” (1). The story also says that the abbey they take refuge in has “such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion” (1). In those lines the reader is shown that the prince and his guests choose to deny that the world is helpless and that despite being within the secured abbey they can still be infected by the Red Death.
The narrator says the “prince. . .provided all the appliances of pleasure” (1). Those pleasures serve to keep them busy and enable them to remain in denial of the horrendous situation. When a person goes in denial it’s because there’s a truth that to them seems so terrible they’d rather not accept it as a truth. Consequently, when the people see a man with the Red Death they’re deeply offended because they have now been reminded of the very truth that they deny, that regardless of being within the abbey, there’s still a chance they can contract the Red Death and die. Despite seeing this man, their denial goes so far that they prefer to believe the man wears a “mask” that’s “made. . . to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse” (4). The prince decides to deny the truth calling the supposed insinuation of the alleged masked figure, that the red death was inside the abbey, “blasphemous mockery” (4).
Therefore, in the end when the truth can no longer be denied and everyone realizes the Red Death is within the abbey, the people’s awakening is pricelessly dramatic. Without the motif of denial in “The Masque of the Red Death” the audience would not understand how the prince and his guests can party while the world falls apart, nor would they be treated to such a dramatic awakening.