The "Mask" of the Red Death
"He had come like a thief in the night. . . And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all" (360).
Edgar Allen Poe's The Masque of the Red Death is kind of the nineteenth-century version of an abstinence pamphlet one would recieve in health class or a National Geographic special on mankind's vulnerability in the event of a pandemic. The way that the being that represents the plague sneeks into the abbey undetected is Poe pointing out that sick people don't always appear to be sick. Besides the phantom's costume being a little more grotesque than the others', the guest have no way of telling him apart from them. This is a message that resonates with readers today with HIV and Aids being the huge problem that they are.
On a lighter note, I also enjoyed the double entendre in the title. It is called The Masque of the Red Death because of the masquerade ball that the prince threw. But the disease also sneaks into the party in a mask- disguised as just another of Prospero's revellers.