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The Masque of the Red Death

The Masque of the Red Death

by Edgar Allan Poe

Fear Theme

Poe's main aim in "The Masque of the Red Death" is to create a growing sense of fear and dread in his reader, starting in the opening sentence and building straight through to the story's dark climax. There's nothing in the world Poe creates which lets the reader feel at home, no source of comfort or stability. The reader's fear is also mirrored in the fear felt by the masqueraders in the story towards their own death and anything that reminds them of it. Over the course of the story, their fear builds in a clearly traceable manner, from a nervous unease to an "unutterable horror" at the climax.

Questions About Fear

  1. What techniques does Poe use to build fear in the reader?
  2. Is fear the main force that drives Prospero and his friends to retreat to Prospero's castellated abbey? Or is it something else?
  3. How does the fear of the masqueraders develop through the story? Can you point to specific moments in the text?
  4. Is anything besides death an object of fear in the story? What might be?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Prospero's revelers do not experience any genuine fear until the Red Death actually appears at the ball.

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