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The literary grotesque is a device that illustrates social ills through the portrayal of characters with extreme obsessions. These characters are typically fixated on one of life's major challenges, such as the pursuit of love, wealth, or power. In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death," Prince Prospero is obsessed with death and goes to great lengths to escape the effects of disease and age. To protect himself from the plague known as the Red Death, he seals himself and a thousand members of his court inside his castle and holds a masquerade ball full of bizarre costumes and decadent pleasures. Although his intention is to distract his guests from the deadly pestilence outside the gates, his efforts prove futile; the Red Death appears in their midst in a personified form. The story demonstrates that no display of wealth or opulence can stave off the effects of mortality.
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