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Mask of the Red Death: A Fantasy by Edgar…

Mask of the Red Death: A Fantasy (original 1842; edition 1969)

by Edgar Allan Poe, Federico Castellon (Illustrator)

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Title:Mask of the Red Death: A Fantasy
Authors:Edgar Allan Poe
Other authors:Federico Castellon (Illustrator)
Info:Aquarius Press (1969), Edition: First Thus, Hardcover
Collections:Misc Limited Editions
Tags:Aquarius Press

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The Masque of The Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe (1842)



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In one of my Literature textbooks, this is the story the book chose to best set the example of how important setting can be to a story.

Poe's incredible talent in setting mood through the most miniscule of details is powerful as he establishes dread, irony, and a hefty infusion of Gothic feel by detailing the colors of a series of rooms and what they represent to the audience and characters. The symbolism of the clock is musical and alluring; the ominous clang and the dancers reactions, with its dong indicating the time, further spells out a foreboding mood and tone.

Even the pattern the rooms are walked through speaks volumes. The first room as light blue can symbolize brightness and innocence, skies and springs and births and new beginnings. Each of the seven rooms has a window, all with the color matching the interior of their walls, the exception being the final, seventh room: black.

Poe has stated that stories are best enjoyed if they can be read in one sitting. The Masque of the Red Death is indeed short, only a few pages long, and so it should speak volumes that Poe chose this short space to go into detail about the rooms. He goes into the most detail about the black, final room as its significance - death, the ultimate end, the irony - is the most important element of the story. It is also in this room that the clock beckons and waits.

Without getting into details about any of the characters, Poe concentrates on setting and the most important and only qualities about the prince that the audience needs to know - his fear of the Red Plague and death, his ultimate arrogance in the face of death, believing he can seal it off and defeat it by abiding within his castle walls.

The party-goers feel the same, reassured by the self-imposed power the prince claims, dancing around at midnight behind their masks, stopping only when the clock chimes its ominous call, feeling a small hesitation but quickly ignoring it again as they resume merry dancing and happily embracing false securities. Death as the ultimate, inevitable force erupts onto the party. The prince then proceeds from room to room in a circular order, indicating from life to different stages of color, to the inevitable black which is the end room, from which there is no escape.

Poe was an original type of writer who aspired to make a solid career as a literary critic. Confident in his writing ability and seeking to inject freshness into words by developing the world's first detective story and gothic pieces which whispered doses of irony, he isn't the type to resort to already used phrases or cliches. Because of this, I find high relevance in the ending paragraph, where he writes:

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night.

Instantly I recognized "come like a thief in the night" as the biblical words spoken by Jesus when referring to the apocalypse. It would come without warning and begin the reign of death, as He comes "like a thief in the night."

A powerful tale about the finality of an ending which can't be avoided, Poe is to be admired for capturing such a significant range of emotions using creative settings in a short span of pages. ( )
  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
Rich in symbolism, a fast and entertaining read on the inevitability of death. ( )
  bdtrump | May 9, 2015 |
A hauntingly gothic tale showing that no one is safe from death and disease. Not the arrogant, the rich or the privileged can escape it's clutches. It's only a matter of time. Tick, tock. ( )
  Cynical_Ames | Sep 23, 2014 |
I have never read anything by Edgar Allan Poe before, and I've always been a bit worried about attempting to because of the hype around his writing and the reputation he has in literature.
I found this short story amazing! It's beautifully written in a poetic, descriptive way, and even though there isn't really much of a horror aspect, the atmosphere created by the language used has you gripped from the beginning, expecting the worst. ( )
  charlottejones952 | Sep 2, 2013 |
I just dark and great. ( )
  Heinrich_Faust | Jul 20, 2013 |
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The "Red Death" had long devastated the country.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
A single short work. Do not combine with collections containting other stories
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Prince Prospero and a thousand of his followers shut themselves away in a vast abbey to avoid the dreaded Red Death.

(summary from another edition)

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