In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death," what is the rising and falling action?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The rising action is the party, and the falling action is the arrival of Death.

Rising action refers to the beginning of a story, when the characters, setting, and problem have been introduced (that was the exposition).  The rising action leads to the climax.  The falling action, on the other hand, is the downward part of the plot after the climax. 

“The Masque of the Red Death” describes Prince Prospero, an arrogant and out-of-touch aristocrat, who throws a party for himself and his courtiers while the people of his kingdom die of a terrible plague called the Red Death.

In “The Masque of the Red Death,” the rising action is the events of the party. 

And now again the music swells, and the dreams live, and writhe to and fro more merrily than ever, taking hue from the many-tinted windows through which stream the rays from the tripods.

You will notice that the party is not described in great detail.   In the exposition, the reader learns about the prince and the caste is described, but then the party itself is the rising action.  The reason the rooms are described in more detail than the party is that they are symbolic.  The story itself is quite short.  It spends more time focusing on the meaning of the excess of the prince and his guests, and how they enjoyed themselves in idleness while the people suffered, than on specifics of what they did.

This is rising action because it leads toward the climax, which is the turning point.  This occurs when the visitor, Death, reveals himself.  The events following the climax are the falling action.  This is the prince’s destruction.  He falls apart, trying to get the people to attack Death, then wanting to attack him himself, then succumbing.

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.

This is the falling action because it is the part of the plot where the characters have to deal with the effects of the climax.  Since the climax is the turning point, where everything changes, the falling action is the result of that.  The resolution comes from that.  In this case, everyone dies.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition to its function of leading to the climax, the rising action of a short story is essential to the plot it because introduces the "problem" or conflict that reaches its highest point of intensity at the climax. This problem or conflict is internal or external, and involves the protagonist, or main character and the antagonist(s), character(s) and/or force(s) that work against the protagonist.

In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death," the "problem" is the impending threat of the plague, or Red Death, but the protagonist, Prince Prospero, at first feels no threat because he believes that he and his courtiers can be safe within the protective walls of his ancient castellated abbey:

All these and security were within. Without was the "Red Death [the antagonist].

The problem that exists is the fact that the fortress does not prevent the Red Death from getting inside the abbey despite Prospero's delusions that his wealth and ramparts will prevent this action; consequently, the Red Death becomes an unwanted guest with whom Prospero becomes engaged in conflict in the climax of the story.

user9383514 | Student

The rising action is when the knight, and the ladies in the ball masked (party) where dancing, eating and sharing with each other, forgetting about their problems and hiding from the epidemic of the Red Plague that invade Europe; specifically England in these story in the 14th. century. The climax is when the unexpected guest appeared at the Ball Mask. Prospero said that he should take off his mask, when he didn't receive any answer, Prospero cries for help and said to his guest that help him follow the unexpected guest. Everybody was awe at that figure that they couldn't touch. Prospero follow him through all the chambers of the palace, and tried to kill the unexpected visitor with a knife, but he killed himself. The raising action is when Prospero died, and the other people in the palace tried to followed and catch the unexpected visitor, and finally they all died.

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The Masque of the Red Death

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