You Reap What You Sow

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"'Who dares'--he demanded hoarsely of the courtiers who stood near him--'who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery? Seize him and unmask him--that we may know who we have to hang, at sunrise, from the battlements!"' (Roberts 359).

            I have had to read this piece for a few classes since high school and I still cannot decide whether I personally believe the mask of the Red Death was actually a person wearing a mask or a metaphor for the presence of the disease at the masquerade. I am unaware of what scholars believe it to mean; this is simply what I personally took from the short story. I also feel almost ashamed for writing such a brief analysis of such a powerful piece.

            "His vesture was dabbled in blood--and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror" (Roberts 359). Notice how blood is italicized in this quote. Is the purpose of this to emphasize the fact that the blood was believed to have been real or perhaps to demonstrate the uncertainty of whether or not it was fake?

            "and, seizing the murmur, whose tall figure stood erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave cerements and corpse-like mask, which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form" (Roberts 360).  It almost seems as though the Prince has killed himself for fear of dying from the disease, while the face behind the mask looks on in horror at the results of his shameful joke. Or perhaps the "slow and solemn movement" (Roberts 359) of the Red Death was the spreading of the disease throughout the party guests. Maybe we are not supposed to know who actually brought the disease to the party but rather that the guests were paranoid of the possibility of its presence.

            This story reminds me of two age old sayings. First of all, "do unto your neighbors as you would unto yourself". Would you want someone to leave you alone dying without any help to go to a party? Prince Prospero died alone felling helpless in the face of the disease because he refused to help the sick, but instead party. This can also be related to the saying "You reap what you sow" for the same reason. He turned his back on his people and therefore, life turned its back on the Prince and allowed death to take over.

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