Masquerade! Paper faces on parade...

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I've read this story five times this week to think of something to blog about.  I know the assignment is just to write a short little reaction, but I can't do that.  My geekiness threatens me and tells me that it will disown me if I do anything below two well-thought paragraphs, so... here they are, finally, though they aren't as creative as I wish they were.

"There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine" (357).
                Edgar Allen Poe, The Masque of the Red Death

As I was reading this short story, I noticed that Poe capitalizes the word "Beauty," and it's the only word in the sentence capitalized (other than the first word).  Through close examination, it became obvious to me that Poe contrasts beauty with ugliness to expound on the results of vanity.

Throughout the short story, Poe focuses on detailing physical appearances, such as that of a victim of the Red Death.  A victim has "profuse bleeding at the pores" and "scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face," and because of those physical ineptitudes, he is "shut ... out from the aid and from the sympathy of the fellow-men" (356-357).  Such a person cannot fit in with Prospero's beautiful companions and is therefore abandoned in the disease-infested community.  

Poe also suggests that beauty is merely a facade, a "masquerade" (357), by his repeated use of words relating to masks.  Poe's insistence on the idea that the outward visage is unimportant is clear when the mask on the embodiment of the Red Death is found "untenanted by any tangible form" (360).  The mask covers nothing, just as the beauty of all of Prospero's guests does nothing to protect them from their deaths.

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1 Comments

Jessica Orlowski said:

That's a clever thesis... that Poe capitalizes "Beauty" to contrast with the ugliness. Obviously, beauty is some sort of facade, which is probably why Poe places his characters in masks.

Another connection that I made was that "Beauty" is often used to describe God (God is always capitalized). So, could Poe's use of the word be foreshadowing an omnipresence that will later appear?

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