Edgar Allan Poe's “the Masque of the Red Death”

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Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most mysterious authors that the world of writing has known. Although many critics have different views on Poe's writing style, Harold Bloom summed it up best when he said, "Poe has an uncanny talent for exposing our common nightmares and hysteria lurking beneath our carefully structured lives".(Bloom 7 ). Many of Poe’s works can be related back to his life. Poe had many problems such as psychological illness, alcohol addiction, and gambling issues. There is also the fact that Poe’s life was full of heart aches such as the fact that everyone that Poe would grow to love would leave him or die. Since Poe’s works are so closely related to his life or inspired by his life struggles one can correctly assume what his life was like. Edgar Allan Poe was the middle child of three, and when Poe was less than a year old his parents separated. After his father’s abandonment Poe and his two siblings were left with his mother. However, Poe’s mother died when he was three and Poe went to go live with John and Francis Allan hence Edgar Allan Poe. By living with the Allans, Poe was able to get a good education attending schools in both England and Virginia (Roberts 233). One of Poe’s first loves was for Jane Stith Standard, however, this love was shortly lived when she died of a brain tumor. This would lead Poe to write the poem “To Helen”. Years later after the death of Francis Allan, Poe met a woman named Maria Clemm who became a mother figure to him and also was the mother of Virginia who

would later become Poe’s wife. While married to Virginia, Poe wrote on such an emotional level with the stories such as “Eleonora”. This story in many ways paralleled Poe's life and his love for his wife (Hammond 11-21). The question is who does the person at the end of the story represent? Could it be Poe foreshadowing Virginia’s death? Poe knew that his wife Virginia had been battling with tuberculosis for a while. It was only a matter of time before she died. In January 1842, Virginia ruptured blood vessels and began to hemorrhage (Knapp 31). It wasn’t long after this that Virginia died. After Virginia’s death, Poe's works started to paint darker and gloomier pictures. This gave Poe the reputation of a dark, gruesome, and mysterious writer. Readers can see this through the works of “The Pit and the Pendulum” which was centered on a torture chamber; “The Black Cat”: a horror story; “The Masque of the Red Death”: a plague. “The Masque of the Red Death” is told by the narrator. This story is set in the time in which the plague ruled Europe. Some critics such as Arthur Quinn believe that Poe was writing about his observation of the cholera plague that was in Baltimore in 1831. He believes Poe is using the details of the plague in his stories “King Pest” and “The Masque of the Red Death” (Quinn 187). In “The Masque of the Red Death”, Poe describes “Red Death’s” ailments as “…sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores”. This illness in this story can be used to describe tuberculosis, which is related back to his wife. Tuberculosis has the same symptoms in which “Red Death’s” victims had. According to Tuberculosis Elimination website with tuberculosis people experience dizziness, sharp pains in the chest, people easily bleed

and while coughing they cough up blood.
The main character of this story is doing everything in his power to avoid the “Red Death”. This character can relate to Poe himself. Poe may be referring to himself, he may be thinking about what he could have done to save his wife. He may be thinking he could have locked Virginia up to keep her away from death. Poe may also be alluding to how he is trying to run from coping with her death or he is trying to run from death himself. In the story Prince Prospero has gone as far as to building a maze to keep himself away from the “Red Death”. Bettina L. Knapp describes the abbey as...
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