What does the castle and all its barricades symbolize in "The Masque of the Red Death"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death," after Prince Prospero's "dominions were half depopulated" by the plague that was spreading it red stained death upon the kingdom, he decides to beckon the knights and his friends to one of his "castellated abbeys."  In the medieval ages, abbeys were built for monks, but often they were used as bulwarks against enemies.  So, Prospero gathers people from his kingdom in this abbey in an effort to prevent the Red Death from entering and killing any more of his subjects.  He hopes that the abbey, a fortress with its "lofty wall with gates or iron," will prevent any unwanted guest from entering.  Having welded shut the iron gates and sealed themselves inside the "lofty wall," the prince and his guests have, they feel, "defiance to contagion," and they leave the external world to "take care of itself."  Thus, the barricades and walls of the catellated abbey represent man's efforts to fight an abstract force with material objects, demonstrating how people react to their mortality.  Sadly, no physical object or force can prevent death from entering.

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The Masque of the Red Death

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