A plague called the Red Death is sweeping across Europe at the time of the story. It is called the Red Death because one of the symptoms is splotchy red marks on the body. Like the bubonic plague or Black Death in real history, it devastates whole populations of people. That is why Prince Prospero gathers up 1000 or so of his friends and locks them and himself away in the abbey of his castle. Everything goes well until the night of a masquerade ball. During the party, a stranger appears amidst the guests. He is dressed in tattered clothes from the grave and wears a mask that looks like a corpse. Prince Prospero tries to kill him but dies when he gets near the stranger. The stranger, is in fact, symbolic of the disease, the Red Death. Everyone at the ball soon dies. Poe's purpose in writing this story is to let the reader know that one cannot escape one's fate and that death is inevitable.