What are the two central ideas in the first four paragraphs of The Masque of The Red Death, and how does the author convey them using various literary and stylistic devices?

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rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The purpose of the beginning of the story is to first set the scene — to describe the disease, Prince Prospero’s decision to retreat to the abbey, and the elaborate masquerade he throws for his guests. The second purpose is to establish a tone, or to create an emotional response in the reader—one of foreboding and dread. Poe manages this in several ways. First, his description of the disease is terrifying: blood starts oozing uncontrollably from one’s pores, and in half an hour death follows. Second, Prospero’s decision to retreat to the abbey at first may seem smart—Poe calls him “happy and dauntless and sagacious”—but it soon becomes clear that by locking himself and his guests in the abbey, he is only heightening the terror of the disease. In the fourth paragraph, where Poe describes in detail the suite of rooms in which the masque will occur, it is clear that the prince is either a little crazy or, worse yet, has some secret plan for the masque. The reader is left wondering about the rooms and their colors, the windows with the braziers outside, and the terrifying final room, all black, except for the “blood tinted” light streaming through its red window, which “produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within.” 

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The Masque of the Red Death

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