Comparative Essay- Rachel Orbach
In “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe, and “To Build a Fire” by Jack London, both authors use similar protagonists who unwillingly have to face their death. Prince Prospero, in “The Masque of Red Death”, is avoiding a deadly plague by hiding in his castle with his kinsmen, and the man in “To Build a Fire” is traveling in the freezing weather trying to abstain from hypothermia and death. Prince Prospero and the man, while different from one another, are both trying to fight their ineludible destiny. While “To Build a Fire” takes place in the cold Alaskan frontier, and “The Masque of Red Death” is set in an isolated abbey, Poe and London both express through stubborn protagonists that regardless how hard one tries to hide from death, it is inevitable.
Both Prince Prospero and the man in “To Build a Fire” try to avoid their demise but are unsuccessful, showing the reader that death is inescapable. Prince Prospero’s excessive pride and arrogance causes him to attempt to fight the Red Death, and he is defeated. Through the Red Death’s triumph, it is understandable that despite how powerful Prince Prospero is, no one is more powerful than death. The prince thinks that it is “folly” to grieve and rather than concentrating on the negative, he throws a party and forgets about those not within the abbey since he believes that they must save themselves from death while he “escaped” it (Poe 1). Prince Prospero is ignoring how people are dying outside of the castle and by throwing a party, he is rubbing in the face of death that he is evading his fate, which he has not. The Red Death ultimately enters the castle and kills all the people proving that one cannot avoid death because death is unavoidable. The man in “To Build a Fire” does not adhere to the advice of the man from Sulphur Creek to not travel in the cold alone. By not listening to him, this leads to the man’s demise. The man laughs in the face of the wise man from Sulphur Creek because he believes he is superior and he will not die, even alone in the freezing cold (London 6). The man’s arrogance causes him to believe that he is subjected from listening to the man from Sulphur Creeks’ advice about traveling in the cold alone. London expresses through the man’s arrogance how no one is an exception to death because death is certain for everyone. Prince Prospero, hiding in his secluded castle, and the man, continuing his journey despite the threatening temperatures, both realize while dying that regardless how powerful or wise one may be, everyone is destined for death.
Poe and London express in their writings through similar arrogant protagonists that regardless how powerful one is, no one is able to conquer nature. Prince Prospero’s pompous opinions of himself cause him to physically fight the Red Death, and since no one is stronger than death, he is defeated. Alone in the black room, the prince’s arrogance causes him to draw a dagger in attempt...