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"The Masque of the Red Death" is flamboyant and grotesque but it is basically a story of man against nature and is an external conflict. The Red Death is a force of nature attacking humanity. It is therefore the protagonist. Prince Propsero is the antagonist who is trying to escape and thwart the plague. This type of conflict, in which nature is the protagonist, could involve hurricanes, floods, forest fires, earthquakes, tidal waves, and many other life-threatening occurrences. There are other conflicts of man against nature in which man is the protagonist, such as a party of explorers attempting to reach the North Pole or mountain climbers attempting to "conquer" Mt. Everest. Jack London's famous short story "To Build a Fire" is one in which man is the protagonist.
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