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What does the masked figure represent in "The Masque of the Red Death"?

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jakeman16 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 24, 2010 at 1:11 AM via web

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What does the masked figure represent in "The Masque of the Red Death"?

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 24, 2010 at 1:58 AM (Answer #1)

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The figure you refer to in Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" is death.  There's no hiding from death, and it gets us all sooner or later.

The speaker describes the figure:

The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave.  The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat. 

Habiliments are garments used to wrap corpses, and visage is the figure's face.  In addition, the figure is splattered with blood, its brow "besprinkled with the scarlet horror." 

The figure cannot be kept out no matter what is done to stop it, and in the end it kills everyone.  The figure represents death. 



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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 24, 2010 at 2:02 AM (Answer #2)

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It has a threefold meaning:

First, it represents the red death itself, infiltrating itself in the castle with no idea from the courtiers.

With this, another meaning is ascribed:

First, the inevitability of Fate- No matter how much they ran, they still were followed by the red death.

Second, the vulnerability of man- Again, as much as they tried to control a situation by sheltering themselves, it went and found them.

Third: Fate itself- The courtiers tempted it, and she got them- The illness appeared in the castle, as guarded and as sheltered from it as it was.

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