What does the abbey symbolize or represent?  

Expert Answers
favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this story, the prince's isolated abbey seems to represent the desire to delay or avoid death.  The terribly fatal pestilence, called the Red Death, had swept through his kingdom, killing half of its citizens swiftly and grotesquely.  In his arrogant attempt to evade the disease, Prince Prospero invites one thousand of his healthiest and most fun friends to run away with him.  He stocks the abbey with everything they'd need, and his courtiers weld the iron gates shut so that no one can get in to or out of the fortress.  He seems to feel that "With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion.  The external world could take care of itself."  The prince and his friends feel that they had thought of everything, that they would be totally isolated from the rest of humanity and thus there would be no way in which the terrible disease could possible reach them.  However, despite the prince's wealth and isolated abbey, and his and the courtiers' planning and youth and health, there is simply no way to avoid death.