Poe's "The Masque Of The Red Death And "The Telltale Heart"

971 words - 4 pages

Edgar Allan Poe's short stories, "The Telltale Heart" and "The Masque of the Red Death" are two very different stories. One is about a simple man, perhaps a servant, who narrates the tale of how he kills his wealthy benefactor, and the other is about a prince who turns his back on his country while a plague known as The Red Death ravages his lands. Yet, there are some similarities in both. Time, for instance, and the stroke of midnight, seem to always herald the approach of impending death. Both are killers, one by his own hand, the other by neglecting his country. One seeks peace, the other seeks pleasure, but both are motivated by the selfish need to rid themselves of that which haunts them, even at the expense of another's life. However, the point of this critique will show that their meticulous plans to beat that which torments them are undone by a single flaw in their character - overconfidence.

In both stories, the chief characters plan in great detail the actions they will take to rid themselves of that which haunts them. The narrator of "The Telltale Heart" is the killer, and he explains in the telling of his story how he felt no ill will toward the old man, but how it was the old man's pale eye that caused his "blood (to) run cold; and so by degrees - very gradually - (he) made up (his) mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid (himself) of the eye forever."[382] Later, he reflects on how meticulously he goes about entering the old man's room, planning the murder. "For seven nights - every night at midnight" he enters the sleeping chamber.[383] Prince Prospero, in Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death," decides to take with him many friendly "knights and dames"[386] from his court and hide away in seclusion. He goes to great lengths to ensure that death will not find him. He orders the gates welded shut. "They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within." Prince Prospero also, "had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori [actors], there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, and there was wine. All these and security were within."[386] It was the great detail that each character took to rid themselves of their horrors, that they create in themselves a confidence, which leads them to falsely assume they are safe from reproach.

This false sense of control feeds them both with a sense of power, a feeling that they can do anything they want, or a 'God complex,' if you will. Prospero, after half of his country had fallen victim to the Red Death, was "happy and dauntless...

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