The Masque of the Red Death
by Edgar Allan Poe
Horror or Gothic Fiction, Fantasy, Literary Fiction
"The Masque of the Red Death" is about as Gothic as it gets. It's got the "Gothic feel" down pat –you know, that sense of "everything seems threatening and dark and vaguely scary" that nabs you write in the opening line? There's just no moment in the story when you're allowed to feel comfortable – even the protagonist (Prospero) seems a bit unhinged and puts you on edge. Like any Gothic classic, it's also got death on the brain, and a healthy dose of creepy old castles and "dark imagery." There's also a pinch of the supernatural, which is a common feature of many, though not all, Gothic stories. The supernatural elements and all that crazy dream imagery might also make it seem like a "fantasy," which is after all what Poe first called it. Finally, you can also call "Masque" a work of literary fiction, because of its highly unusual, almost experimental form. This story is really more about atmosphere and setting than about characters or plot: it's atmosphere that creates Poe's "effect."