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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Why did Poe choose to write about something so dark?

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It is possible that the author, Poe, chose to write about this dark subject—a fatal disease that runs its course through its victims within thirty minutes and is defined by how much blood its victims lose during this time—because he witnessed the devastation caused by a similarly fatal illness during his own lifetime. When Poe was just about three years old, his mother died of tuberculosis, a brutal and difficult illness where the victim coughs up a great deal of blood by the end, in front of him. It must have been terrible thing to witness his mother's graphic and bloody demise, especially for such a young child. As his father was gone, little Edgar was taken in by his mother's friend, Mrs. Frances Allan, and her husband. The boy had a very affectionate and loving relationship with his foster mother, but she eventually died of tuberculosis as well. That makes two mother figures that Poe lost to this disease. In that time, tuberculosis was, essentially, a death sentence, and its victims would also be known by the blood they would expel from their corrupted lungs. Perhaps writing "The Masque of the Red Death" represented an attempt on Poe's part to work through the great personal losses he experienced to a similarly terrifying disease.

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