The "mask" of the Red Death

Published: 2021-06-29 07:02:28
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Category: English

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Can being separated by social class lead to immunity from the problems facing society? Edgar Allen Poe makes a point to address this question in his story "The Masque of the Red Death." When the prince locks himself in a castle with the other members of the upper class to avoid the Red Death, Poe creates an image of social divide. "The Masque of the Red Death" shows that social class cannot be used as a way to escape the problems of society as a whole, because in the end, hiding and not addressing the problems that are at hand will eventually catch up with the individual, regardless of their social class and standing. Poe demonstrates this point by using multiple examples of symbolism to represent the effects caused by seclusion on the problem and difficulties facing the world.
Poe first introduces symbolization through his characterization of Prince Prospero, the prince's guests, and the Red Death. In this story the Prince and his guests are used as a symbol of high society and those in a position of power. While the Red Death itself is used as a way to symbolize the social problems that trouble society as a whole. The idea Poe is demonstrating through these symbols is evident by the actions taken by the Prince and his guests to avoid the Red Death. The actions of the Prince are illustrated in the passage, "When the dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys" (269). By hiding away in the castle Poe shows the fleeing of the upper class, and even to an extent those in power, from the problems facing society. However, when the Red Death shows up to the masquerade Poe is demonstrating the idea that regardless of how hard one tries one cannot lock himself away from issues presented to society and expect them to get better or just go away.

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