Hello, all. I’ve decided that I’m gong to add another weekly thing to this blog, much like my Mythology Monday posts: Short Story Saturday. Basically, every Saturday, I plan on writing a post discussing a different short story.
Today, I’ve decided to tackle Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque Of The Red Death.” It’s been on my mind recently, for some obvious reasons.
To start off with, we have this unnamed country under the heel of a plague know by the residents as the Red Death. This is because one of the final symptoms of the disease is bleeding from the pores immediately followed by a horrible painful death. So, that’s pleasant.
When about half the population is dead, Prince Prospero decides to gather a bunch of his noble friends in an abbey, weld all the doors shut so no one can come in or enter, and then just wait for all this to blow over. Which I’m sure will work well for them.
Spoiler: it does not work out well for them.
Anyway, things seem to be going all right for about the first six months or so, when Prospero decides it would be fun to have a huge masked ball. This ball takes place in seven rooms, each with its own color scheme. The first is blue, the second purple, then green, orange, white, and violet. Of particular interest is the seventh room, which is black with red windows. Understandably, no one at the party wants to enter this room because it’s creepy as fuck.
In this room, however, is a large ebony clock. Whenever it strikes the hour, the party basically stops until its done, and then picks up again. The party follows this pattern until midnight, when the revelers suddenly notice a guy standing there who wasn’t there before.
This guy is wearing what appears to be burial clothes, with a mask that’s obviously meant to mimic the final bloody symptom of the Red Death. This is in pretty poor taste. In fact, it’s in such poor taste that Prospero flies into a rage and starts chasing the dude through each of the seven rooms.
Then, upon getting to the last room, Prospero just drops dead.
The guests, upon seeing this, all flood into the room and start manhandling the guy in the red mask, but are shocked when his clothes just fall to the floor, empty. I’m just going to transcribe the last paragraph here, because it’s an absolute banger:
And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.
Seriously, though, that last paragraph, in particular the last sentence, gives me goosebumps.
So, Poe was obviously trying to say something with this story here. I think that what he’s saying is that you can deny it all you want, but eventually death comes for everyone, including you. Which isn’t a particularly cheerful thought, but Poe wasn’t a particularly cheerful guy.
Another lesson of this is probably that you shouldn’t ignore horrible plagues that are ravaging entire communities. So glad our current leadership wouldn’t do something like that, right?