In "The Mask of the Red Death," how does setting reflect something specific about the main character? Please provide text to back-up the question.

1 Answer | Add Yours

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death," the Gothic setting in an old abbey borders on magical realism in which the line between what is real and what is not is worn away, replaced with a setting that is both at the same time.  There is an eerieness to the rooms, an other-worldliness to the "multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances."  The panes of the windows appear blood-tinted, "ghastly in the extreme."  The phantasms abound in this abbey;  There is a gigantic clock of ebony which emits a sound that is both musical and disconcerting.  

The giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation.

The glare and shadows and glitter, the arabesque figures with "unsuited limbs," and the madman fashions and beautiful and wanton all turn and twist through the seven chambers.  Poe writes, "In truth the masquerade license of the nights was nearly unlimited."  But, as the "mad revelers" feel the presence of the gaunt fighre who seems to have come from the grave.  Yet,

The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closes scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat.

The Red Death's appearance is as a masqued personage, as well.  The company feels that "in the costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety existed."  He is an interloper.  Angered the Prince Prospero addresses him, "Who dares?"  Yet, no one will touch him because of a "deadly terror." The masqued intruded makes his way through the seven rooms until he is in the black room: 

...the Prince Prospero....rushed hurriedly through the six chambers....He bore aloft a drawn dagger...There was a sharp cry--and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which, instantly afterwards, fell prostrate in death the Prince Prospero....And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death.  He had come like a thief in the night.

Only the Prince has dared to enter the black room; only he has tried to kill death in the form of the masked skeleton. 

We’ve answered 317,786 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question