The Masque of the Red Death Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

The Masque of the Red Death book cover
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What does the wall symbolize in "The Masque of the Red Death"?

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Dolly Doyle eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The wall is one of the major symbols in "The Masque of the Red Death." The wall is there to keep out anyone carrying the plague and to ensure that the nobles can stay in their own ignorant bubble. The wealthy are trying to use their privilege to avoid sickness and death. They party within the walls, figuring they have cheated death itself by erecting the wall. Poe gets to the heart of the wealthy mindset with this passage: "The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve or to think."

The ultimate point of the story is that the characters cannot escape misery, no matter how much money or power they have. In the end, the wall becomes a prison. The nobles are trapped with the Red Death and all end up being claimed by death itself. They have spelled out their own doom in trying to avoid it.

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In Edgar Allan Poe's classic horrifying tale "The Masque of the Red Death", he tells a tale of pestilence and the attempt of rich nobility to hide from the reality. In this story there existed a wall that stood around the Prince's "castellated abbey". "A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress". This wall is used in this story by Edgar Allan Poe to symbolize how the revelers were attempting to hide and seclude themselves from the real world of death. They hid behind the walls and locked themselves in to keep death out. However, it is shown with their reaction to the clock, that they still understand, no matter how hard they try to ignore it, that time keeps moving forward and pushing them closer to their ultimate demise. It is ironic that this wall that was supposed to keep the infected population out, ended up keeping them all locked inside with the "Red Death".

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