Please discuss how setting plays a crucial role in THE SHAWL and THE MASQUE OF RED DEATH    

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amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I haven't read "The Shawl," but the setting in "The Masque of the Red Death" is crucial for several reasons.  The setting is a multi-roomed home of a well-to-do member of society, Prince Prospero (note the name--prosperous, wealthy, above all others).  They are, in fact, having a dance (a masquerade ball) to entertain themselves while countless people are dying in the streets of the plague. Prince Prospero is afraid of death, and is determined not to be a victim of this horrible disease which puts its victims through so much pain and suffering before they actually die.  The wealthy guests are also attempting to escape death by walling themselves in and enjoying each other's company ignoring the fate of the city outside.  So, the elite attitude of the party's host and guests is part of the setting as well.  The vagueness at to the actual year and country gives the fairy tale element of "once upon a time" and then shocks the reader even moreso when death does, indeed, strike in such an eloquent place.  It's the perfect setting for a gothic horror story which Poe was so great at creating.  The surroundings of the apartment are posh, beautiful, elegant and lovely.  What better place than this to put Death...especially one which is rumored to be horribly painful before the victim succumbs to death by bleeding from the pores?  An ugly death in such a lovely setting...true irony.

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The Masque of the Red Death

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