A Ghostly Alternative

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Edgar Allen Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" is a great story that I've already been over last year, so I tried to find an alternative, (and most likely completely out there) theory for what could have happened or have taken place in Poe's short story.

Poe states, "the dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand. But the echoes of the chime die away -they have endured but an instant-a light...and now again the music swells..." (358) illustrating that the theory that the people are already ghosts and are simply reliving the magical moments before they were killed by the horrible Red Death. This dream or enchanted spell that allows them to take another chance at either revisiting the party or by having a few hours sickness free, is broken by the chiming of the clock. The clock acts as a reminder that everyone only has a few more hours. This constant reminder freezes everyone in a slight panic, each knowing that their time is almost up.

Despite the knowledge that everyone knows they must return to their ghost forms, everyone tries to fight the original Red Death disease in the shape of a mysterious figure that everyone pounces on to try to stop the Red Death from taking over when the clock strikes midnight. Prince Prospero goes after the Red Death, attempting to destroy it for everyone and be the hero, but fate has already taken their lives away once and therefore must do so again.

This theory probably wouldn't hold up in a paper, but it might be interesting to try.

3 Comments

Josie Rush said:

Actually, your theory works when you consider the narrator, who is describing the events as though he's seen them, but speaking in the present. [He says, "but first let me tell of the rooms in which it was held" (357) at one point, and "much of what has been since seen in "Hernani" (358). The Hugo work he references here shows that he's alive in 1830, but the setting has the feel of being centuries older.] The big problem with this narrator actually being alive is that the narrator himself states that everyone at this party died. So there's no way for the story to have been retold to him, yet the narrator's presence at all is paradoxical. And, since the Hugo work referenced is from centuries after this work... Either Poe was sloppy, which, in my opinion, he isn't with narrators in his stories, or the narrator is already dead when this is going on. So, yeah, I think it's extremely possible the narrator at least was a ghost.

Melissa Schwenk said:

Josie, I hadn't even thought about the narrator, but that definitely works. The whole story had the appeal as if you rewound the clock everyone starts back in their first position and then goes through the same thing all over again, like they're all ghosts getting another chance at something that's already been pre-scripted. That would make the whole narrator even more important, too, because he enhances the other party goers being ghosts by being able to tell their story. Like you said, he didn’t have someone tell the story to him. He probably witnessed it first hand, and then was able to retell the same story that allowed the other characters to get their time to shine again, but only for a few hours.

Jessica Orlowski said:

Melissa, that makes perfect sense, actually. Josie, I don't think the narrator was a ghost, but someone recounting historical fact. I agree with the fact that the members of the party are members of a residual haunting, but I don't think that the narrator was there. Now, what I'm about to say is completely out there, but why not...

So.. in a residual haunting, spirits complete repetitive motions over and over again without realizing that an outside party is there. Could the narrator be observing this residual haunting?

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