Use of Contrasts in The Masque of the Red Death
"There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dansers, there
were musicians, there was beauty, there was wine. All these and security within. Without was the Red Death." (Poe, 209) In the short story, The Masque of the Red Death, Edgar
Allen Poe uses the sanctity within the abbey walls to juxtapose the harshness and
inescapable nature of the Red Death. The author uses the contrasts between the abbey
and the Red Death to reveal the true character of Prince Prospero, to suggest the
presence of the Red Death in the abbey, and to aide in the climax of events.
While the Prince's people are suffering outside the abbey walls, he is selfishly
entertaining guests at a masquerade ball. The story opens with a brief description of the
plague that is spreading through Prince Prospero's people. "There were sharp pains,
sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution." (Poe, 209)
Instead of elaborating on the effects of the plague, Poe begins his descriptions of the
abbey and the Prince's living conditions. The prince locks himself, along with one
thousand of the upper class, into an abbey adorned and supplied with many luxuries.
While the prince is safe and content within the abbey walls, his people are dying from the
horrible plague. The apathetic nature of Prince Prospero surrounding the welfare of his
people suggests that he is a cold and uncaring man. Poe presents these two very different settings to portray the callous nature of Prince Prospero.
Even though the Prince is seemingly safe from the Red Death within the Abby,
the impending presence of the plague can be seen within the descriptions...