The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

The Masque of the Red Death book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What is the internal and external conflict in "The Masque of the Red Death"?  

Expert Answers info

David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write8,917 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

The main external conflict is clearly between Prince Prospero (and his guests) and the deadly plague—the Red Death of the title—raging outside. The Red Death has already caused appalling devastation, claiming the lives of many victims. The last thing that the prince and his guests want is to be the latest additions to that long and growing list. So they shut themselves up inside Prospero's castellated abbey walls, engaging in riotous partying to take their minds off the terrifying plague that stalks the land.

Prospero's internal conflict is with his own sense of mortality. The appearance of the mysterious scarlet-clad spectral figure appears to have wrecked his meticulous plan to keep the Red Death well away from his imposing stately home. Locking himself away deep inside the walls of the abbey was not just a way to keep out the plague; it was also designed to postpone Prospero's inevitable confrontation with his own mortality. Like most of us, Prospero doesn't want to think about death, even though he knows it's inevitable. But the appearance of the spectral figure forces him to confront the reality of his own mortality, with truly terrifying consequences.

Further Reading:
check Approved by eNotes Editorial
William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write5,416 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

"The Masque of the Red Death" is flamboyant and grotesque but it is basically a story of man against nature and is an external conflict. The Red Death is a force of nature attacking humanity. It is therefore the protagonist. Prince Propsero is the antagonist who is trying to escape and thwart the plague. This type of conflict, in which nature is the protagonist, could involve hurricanes, floods, forest fires, earthquakes, tidal waves, and many other life-threatening occurrences. There are other conflicts of man against nature in which man is the protagonist, such as a party of explorers attempting to reach the North Pole or mountain climbers attempting to "conquer" Mt. Everest. Jack London's famous short story "To Build a Fire" is one in which man is the protagonist.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Unlock This Answer Now