Friday, 20 January 2012

Review: 'The Mask of Red Death' by Edgar Allan Poe

This is the last review in this years Poe-Week and I really enjoyed it, so I might do it again next year with different texts. But for now, it is time to review 'The Mask of the Red Death'.

Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Publication Date:  May 1842
Publisher: Graham's Magazine

Masqueofthereddeath-Clarke.jpgThe story is set in a country, I presume, where the Red Death is plaguing the population. Prince Prospero is hiding out in his abbey, together with about a 1000 friends. The abbey has 7 rooms, each of which are decorated in different colours. All of the rooms seem very cheerful, except the one decorated with black velvet and with red windows. They have a masked ball and everything seems fine, until a hooded figure appears.

This was the probably the ultimate Gothic story out of all of those Poe stories I read. It can be interpreted in many different ways. The 7 different rooms could be seen as different parts of the mind or different human traits. In that sense the story might be a story about how death is inevitable, because the Red Death will find you, no matter where you hide or how you behave. Of course, there is also the interpretation of Poe saying that not even the rich can escape death and that their behaviour is scandalous.

I really enjoyed the story even though it is rather grisly. The idea of these rich people hiding away and letting the poor die creates a group of victims that you almost want to die. And the setting description is simply gorgeous. Especially the way the black velvet room is described creates a rather scary atmosphere.  Only criticism: you never really get to know any of the characters and therefore their death is not as shocking as in the other stories!

A movie was made of it: 'The Mask of Red Death' (1964). And although the story was slightly blown up and although they added satanism, it is still funny to watch:

Well, this what is then. The end of Poe-Week. Hope you enjoyed it!

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