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Essay on Setting in Poe’s The Masque (Mask) of the Red Death

Use of Setting in The Masque of the Red Death

“…In the black chamber the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the black hangings through the blood-tinted panes was ghastly in the extreme, and 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 its precincts at all” (210). This quote serves to demonstrates Edgar Allan Poe’s descriptive abilities. In “The Masque of the Red Death” Poe gives much detail about the setting. Poe uses detail about the setting to make the story believable, to add irony to the story, and to create an atmosphere appropriate for the appearance of the “Red Death.”

In retrospect, “The Masque of the Red Death” is not a vary believable story. However,

Poe’s description of the setting presents the reader with such a realistic image of the scene that the reader cannot help but believe the story when first it is first read. The reader is manipulated by the author into believing that the story could actually be true. Poe accomplishes this manipulation by describing the setting in great detail. Seemingly half of the story is setting, rather than actual action. Poe begins with description of the ‘Red Death,’ proceeds to describe the

‘castellated abbey,’ and finally the ‘imperial suit.’ By paying such close attention to detail, the author has created a believable image in the mind of the reader. The creation of such believable aspects of the story is important. Within this believable image, the unbelievable arrival of the masked figure (the “Red Death”) gains credibility. Without such believable aspects, the arrival of such a presence would not be credible.

Poe uses setting to create irony in the story. The description of the castellated abbey

includes the facts that, “a strong and lofty wall girdled it,” and that the gates had been welded shut (209). Both the high wall and the welded gates were intended to keep the Red Death out of the castle, when, ironically, they actually trapped it inside. Poe leaves clues to the reader that this may occur. He includes the statement that the welded gates prevent “egress” as well as “ingress.”

Furthermore, a girdle is typically used to hold something in, rather than keep something out.

Use of Contrasts in Poe’s The Masque (Mask) of the Red Death

Use of Contrasts in The Masque of the Red Death

“There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dansers, there

were musicians, there was beauty, there was wine. All these and security within. Without was the Red Death.” (Poe, 209) In the short story, The Masque of the Red Death, Edgar

Allen Poe uses the sanctity within the abbey walls to juxtapose the harshness and

inescapable nature of the Red Death. The author uses the contrasts between the abbey

and the Red Death to reveal the true character of Prince Prospero, to suggest the

presence of the Red Death in the abbey, and to aide in the climax of events.

While the Prince’s people are suffering outside the abbey walls, he is selfishly

entertaining guests at a masquerade ball. The story opens with a brief description of the

plague that is spreading through Prince Prospero’s people. “There were sharp pains,

sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution.” (Poe, 209)

Instead of elaborating on the effects of the plague, Poe beg…

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