How does social-economic status affect the characters if one survives or falls victim to the Red Death in "The Masque of the Red Death"?  

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you are wealthy enough to be in the prince’s inner circle, you are more likely to survive the Red Death for a little while longer.

The Red Death kills indiscriminately.  It does not care whether you are rich or poor, because it is a disease!

The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.

The only way that you can escape the disease is to leave the county.  Prince Prospero figures out a way to do this, taking his closest friends with him.  He does not care about the poor people in the kingdom.  He is only interested in the rich.

When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. 

If you were poor, you would likely stay behind to die.  If you were rich enough to be one of the thousand closest friends of Prince Prospero, you might get a reprieve.  The abbey was well-protected from the pestilence, at least at first.  No one got in after they locked themselves in there.  They had enough provisions to last them until the disease was over.

Even the rich and influential could not escape the Red Death.  It found them in their seclusion.  They died even though they were locked inside the abbey away from the affected population.  No one could escape the Red Death.

Poe’s message is that being rich and powerful will not save you from death.  Prospero is naïve and arrogant. He does nothing to protect his kingdom, instead protecting his friends.  He would rather be holed up inside a wall with a bunch of toadies than do right by his people.

Read the study guide:
The Masque of the Red Death

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