Why does Prince Prospero hide in his palace?
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The prince truly believes he can avoid the Red Death. He is aloof enough to think that he can invite only his close (rich) friends into his place and outlast the disease. These qualities are not good qualities of a prince. He should be out helping his people. Instead, he thinks that he can escape death and can party with all of his friends. He does not want any talk of the disease, and he wants everything that goes into his party to be fun, extreme, and inviting. He wants nothing to do with the ugliness of the Red Death, which is why it comes after him.
If you look at this story from another perspective, such as that it is really a dream that Prince Prospero is having, then he is not hiding in his palace, he is deathly ill and in bed, dying from the red death in his palace.
One way to view the whole party, the masked ball where the red death shows up is as a fantastic dream that Prince Prospero has as he is in the grip of the red death hallucinating with fever. The rooms symbolize the phases of life, the clock in the last room monitors the final hours, minutes of the Prince, and when finally he confronts the red death, no one survives.
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