How does Poe's life relate to the story "The Masque of the Red Death"?

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In Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Masque of the Red Death,” try though he might, Prince Prospero cannot hide from death. This relates to Poe's own life: death found Poe's loved ones repeatedly when he was just a young boy.

Death finds Prince Prospero and all of...

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In Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Masque of the Red Death,” try though he might, Prince Prospero cannot hide from death. This relates to Poe's own life: death found Poe's loved ones repeatedly when he was just a young boy.

Death finds Prince Prospero and all of his privileged friends. The story opens with, “The red death had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous.”

Despite all this, “Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious.” He walls himself, with his inner circle in:

deep seclusion of one of his crenellated abbeys…This wall had gates of iron [to keep death out]. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts.

However, Prince Prospero and his friends cannot keep death out. Death arrives at the masked ball wearing a disguise. Prospero is infuriated and demands, “Who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery? Seize him and unmask him — that we may know whom we have to hang at sunrise, from the battlements!” Before Prospero has the chance to hang the masked intruder, he dies. The story ends with the following:

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall…And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.

Poe learned at an early age that death inevitably holds dominion over all. In fact, his early years were marked by the significant loss of loved ones. When he was a very young boy, Poe lost his mother. She was only twenty-four years old. Just a few days later, his father died, as well. Thus, before he was even three years old, Poe was an orphan. He was taken in by the Allan family and grew very attached to his foster mother, whom he called “Ma.” She died little more than a decade after he lost his parents.

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Edgar Allen Poe's famous horror short story "The Masque of the Red Death" tells of Prince Prospero, who seeks to avoid a terrible plague afflicting the country by shutting himself off in one of his castle-like abbeys. With a thousand guests and an opulent setting, he seeks to forget that outside the walls, death is ravaging the land. He thinks, perhaps, that as he parties, death will pass him by. However, the dreadful disease somehow enters. "And one by one dropped the revelers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall." The end of the story shows the inevitability of death and how it comes for all, poor and rich alike.

In his personal life, Poe was familiar with the realization that death was inevitable and it comes for all. Some critics have suggested that the red death may be a reference to the disease of tuberculosis, which was rampant at the time. Poe's mother, foster mother, and brother had all died of the disease. Additionally, by the time that "The Masque of the Red Death" was first published in Graham's Magazine in 1842, Poe's young wife Virginia was already suffering from the effects of the disease. Poe had obtained the license to marry her in 1835 when she was 13 and he was 26, and he loved her greatly. Her gradual deterioration and death at the age of 24 devastated him, causing him to drink heavily. Death came inevitably and early for Poe as well. The precise cause of his death his still somewhat of a mystery, but he died in 1849 when he was only 40 years old.

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Edgar Allan Poe's life was particularly affected by tuberculosis, an almost always fatal disease during that era, and a disease that resulted in its victims coughing up blood initially, even vomiting blood as their illness progressed. Poe was not yet three years old when he watched his mother die of tuberculosis. It's a pretty gory disease in the end, and this experience would likely have made a terrible impression on a very young boy. He was, soon after, adopted by John and Frances Allan, as Frances was his mother's good friend. Poe developed a very close relationship with Frances, though not so much with John, and she became like a second mother to him, but she died of tuberculosis as well when Poe was still a young man. As an adult, Poe married his cousin Virginia, and she died of tuberculosis too (despite her own youthfulness and vigor). Because his life was so impacted by this disease, and because it is so often associated with blood, many interpret the Red Death of the story as a disease similar to tuberculosis.

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Poe's own life was filled with death at a very young age. His mother died when he was young and his father abandoned him so he was an orphan who was later adopted by the Allan couple. Then during his teenage years, his adoptive mother died from tuberculosis. At a young age, he had to deal with death and grief of those closest to him so it isn't any wonder that he was drawn to writing stories that end in death. The theme of The Masque of the Red Death is that no one can escape death no matter how hard one tried to shut it out- it will find everyone no matter who they are. This can certainly relate to Poe's own experiences with loss at such a young age.

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