Literary Analysis Of The Masque Of The Red Death By Edgar Allen Poe

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

Many people fear death, which is why some would do anything to escape it. Few things in life are impossible to live without, one of those things is death. It is impossible to live without death. Death is a requirement. Edgar Allen Poe is known for exploring and shedding light on this universal truth. Poe is known for shedding light on the inevitability of death through his 1842 short story, “The Masque of the Red Death”. This story is about the wealthy Prince Prospero who desperately tries to avoid the Red Death. The Red Death, which symbolizes physical death is sweeping through the country. Prince Prospero believes he has effectively hidden from the Red Death by hiding in his secluded abbey. Little did the Prince know, the danger that he was trying to escape would make its appearance at his masquerade ball. Everyone at the party was enjoying themselves when the Red Death suddenly arrives and kills Prince Prospero and everyone at the party.

Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” reveals to the world that suffering can’t be escaped through the use of allegory, symbolism, and climax. Edgar Allan Poe alludes to brutal disease to create a meaningful allegory. By introducing the Red Death as a sickness that “had long devastated the country” the true inspiration of this short story is revealed to the readers. The Bubonic Plague, comparable to the Red Death, took over the world in the 1300s. There was no cure for the Black Death at that time, leaving the people without hope. The Black Death killed everyone regardless of their social class and wealth. This specific allegory ties back to the theme because it shows that regardless of one’s social position and wealth, death and suffering cannot be escaped. Death reaches everyone eventually and devastates everyone who encounters it. Both diseases draw parallels to one another because they show that pain and agony cannot, under any circumstances, be fled from. Death can’t be cured, it must be endured.

Poe uses symbols to apply the theme to many scenarios. The ebony clock is a symbolic element of this short story. Each time the clock struck the hour, “it was observed that the giddiest turned pale’. During the party, the clock was always ticking. Each hour, the clock would strike and sheer panic and fear would overtake the guests at the party. The fear was quickly forgotten and the party continued in its joyful manner. The clock symbolizes the life of those at the party. As each hour went by their life got shorter. Although the partygoers tried to ignore the clock, it was impossible to forget its presence. There is nothing one can do to keep death from coming to them.

As the clock struck midnight, the Red Death appeared. “And the life of the ebony clock went out. . . ”. The clocks ticking and chiming ended as the partygoers’ lives ended. Although they locked themselves into the abbey, trying to keep death out, the Red Death found them in the end and they all died. Finally, the Red Death is said to be wearing a “corpse-like mask”. This embodies the theme because it shows that while death can be hidden, it is always there and can strike at any moment. Leaving readers with the universal truth that is, death is inevitable and inescapable. The climax turns out to be the most important part of this short story. Prospero’s masquerade was held to celebrate with his fellow nobles who gladly and willingly left the suffering and pain locked outside the walls. Nevertheless, the Red Death finds them at this magnificent masquerade.

While trying to kill the Red Death with a dagger, “fell prostrate in death the Prince Prospero”, permanently ending the life of the Prince. Along with Price Prospero, the rest of the nobles and friends at the party died from the touch of the Red Death. This shows that suffering and agony cannot be escaped or killed; it will always find its victims. Even the powerful and those of high social class were killed by the Red Death. They tried to hide away from the Red Death in the “secluded” abbey. They eventually were all slaughtered by the Red Death. The climax shows that suffering finds everyone, no matter who they are and it cannot be defeated. Ultimately death, pain, and suffering find its way to everyone.

In conclusion, “The Masque of the Red Death” is a detailed story that embodies the inevitability of death and suffering. Poe carefully constructed a meaningful allegory to draw allusions to the Black Death sweeping through Europe to demonstrate the death and pain are eventually brought upon everyone. Through the use of symbols, such as an ebony clock and the mask of the Red Death, Poe illustrates the fact that death is always present. Finally, through the impactful climax of the story, it is apparent that pain suffering and death cannot be beaten with a dagger or sword, nor with wealth, neither barricades nor a secluded abbey. This story is a grave reminder to the readers that death cannot be escaped. At any moment in life, some form of pain or agony is lurking in the corner, hiding behind the party of life. It brings people to their knees, begging for mercy, which cannot be granted, or death.


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