Taylor L. Martin
Professor Susan McKinnis
4 November 2018
The Hope of Freedom Meets Death
In both of Edger Allan Poe’s “gothic” fiction genres, the setting influences both characters to a great extent. The main characters in each story are Prince Prospero in “The Masque of the Red Death” and Montresor in “The Cask of Amontillado”. In “The Masque of the Red Death”, Prince Prospero is trying to escape death during the plague called, the Red Death by hiding in his mansion, soon to find out that death is following closely behind him. “The Cask of Amontillado” takes place in Italy, in an underground catacomb where a man plans a murderous revenge on another man who wronged him. Each of these characters develop as each stories’ setting progresses, each having a plan set in place for what their motives were. The overall theme in both stories is that hope for freedom is often seen in the darkest times..
“The Masque of the Red Death” takes place during the 14th Century. Covering a sixth month period during the reign of the Red Death, The setting of this story takes place in the abbeys of Prince Prospero’s mansion. In this place of confinement, people of power were able to come and take shelter without being harmed by the Red Death. In this story, Prince Prospero believes that by hiding in the abbey, he can evade and defeat being touched by the Red Death, but he soon finds out that not even he, can escape his inevitable death. His character evolves over the story. First he abandoned his commoners, protecting only those he thought to be worthy behind the walls of his castle. He throws an enormous, over the top party to celebrate the nobles escaping the plaque only to see a mysterious figure dressed up in a costume as a reveler. This infuriates the Prince that someone would mock his kindness of sparing their lives so he marches after the figure. He orders his followers to execute the man in the costume, but is filled with rage when everyone is too scared to approach the figure. He decides to overcome his fleeting cowardice and stab the Red Death figure himself, quickly falling over and dying.
Both stories share many characteristics to one another, even though some themes of the story are very different. “The Cask of Amontillado” was based around a wealthy aristocrat named, Fortunato and a man named Montresor. Montresor states he is seeking revenge at the beginning of the story after being wrongfully insulted by his friend. Montresor comes up with a plan to get Fortunato drunk. After Fortunato drinks an excessive amount of alcohol at the carnival, he is tricked into going with his “friend” to sample a rare cask of Amontillado. When he sees his chance, Montresor chains up Fortunato and builds a brick wall to enclose him in to die. When Montresor seeks revenge on Fortunato he states, “the thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.” This shows the theme of how for one character to be free, the other must die.
The two stories are based around the topic of freedom then death. “The Cask of Amontillado” started out with the main character seeking revenge then luring Fortunato into his cellar. He ends up burying him alive seeming to have no conscious as all. The second story, “The Masque of the Red Death” is about a prince who starts out having every intention to save all the wealthy people of his land. He throws a party with all the non-effected people to celebrate escaping death. He is driven in everything he does by the hope that there is freedom from the plague that is hitting his land. He ends up dying from the plague anyway because even after his great efforts, it was still unescapable.
Death is a major theme in mostly all of Edgar Allan Poe’s literary works. In these two specific stories, the stories both ending with a sad, painful ending. Both stories show two main characters who desperately long for freedom from their enemies, both Montresor and the red death. Their hope for freedom is shown by their actions. The narrators’ both show their selfishness and love for themselves, and how that overpowers any other solutions that may be in favor of their rivals. The death of Prince Prospero’s entire party and the death of Fortunato both are excellent examples of how sometimes as hard as you try, you cannot escape the reality that is death.