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What is your personal response to "The Masque of the Red Death"?

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arecl | eNoter

Posted July 12, 2013 at 5:07 AM via web

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What is your personal response to "The Masque of the Red Death"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 12, 2013 at 6:10 AM (Answer #1)

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My own personal response to this story is that this is a very clear allegory about the impossibility of trying to cheat death. The fantastical setting of the story, with a strong, supposedly impenetrable castle with revellers within and a terribly contagious disease outside is something that clearly lends itself well to a allegorical interpretation, and the theme of cheating death clearly emerges towards the beginning of the story:

With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the "Red Death."

Notice how the sentences themselves try to separate Prospero and his lords and ladies from the Red Death, the virulent disease that destroys all in its path. The allegorical interpretation is only strengthened as the story continues and the appearance of death in the final black room results in the death of Prospero and the entrance of the Red Death into the castle, who had come "like a thief in the night." The story therefore acts as a salutory reminder that no matter how powerful, wealthy or important people are, they can never cheat death. This is a particularly important message for a society that is so focused on trying to erase the signs of aging and also trying to prolong life as much as possible. Death is an essential fact that cannot be ignored, and this short story reminds us of this sobering message.


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