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Analysisof Edgar Allan Poe’s works

Poemsand short stories are ways of literally speaking through words. Thekey is to vividly theorize issues and present them in ways that theaudience will seek to find out their true or hidden messages. EdgarAllan Poe was one famous essayist, pet and short story teller. Poe(1809-1849), was one of the most popular writers of his timeespecially noted for writing dark, death-centered, and mysteriousstories. This paper analyzes two of his short stories “the masqueof the red death” and “premature burial.” In this analysis, thepaper looks at the similarities and differences between the twoliterally works in terms of the main characters, the use of symbolismand the reflection of death as a theme in the two pieces of work.


“Themasque of the red death” by Edgar Allan Poe is a classical gothicfiction short story that follows prince Prospero’s attempts toescape a dangerous plague that was said to kill victims within 30minutes named the “red death.” In an attempt to hide from theplague the prince calls a thousand other wealthy noblemen to come andhide with him as they enjoy themselves by throwing parties daily. The setting takes place in the prince’s abbey where he gas stuffedit with enough provisions that they can consume until the plaguewades down. During this period, the prince ignores the rest of thepopulace as he shuts himself away from them and leaves them to diealone. However as fate has it the “masque of the red death”finally visits the princes’ abbey and the prince together with allthe other noblemen die.

Onthe other hand, “premature burial” is another gothic fiction thatPoe writes on the issue of premature burial. According to Poe,premature burial or being buried alive is one of the most intenseforms of suffering that a person can face during that time ofnear-death. In this short story that is much different from manyother stories by Poe, the article uses explanations, and real lifeexamples to demonstrate different forms of suffering. To appeal topeoples or the reader’s emotions, Poe uses examples of people whohave been buried alive, as well as his own experiences suffering fromcatalepsy.

Afterestablishing that premature burials do exist, Poe introduces his ownexperiences in justifying that the fear of death, lack of air,darkness, claustrophobia, and silence combines to form a terrifyingordeal that does not occur anywhere else on earth. This makes thenarrator to conclude that sometimes imagination is unhealthyespecially after his final premonition of death while at the banks ofthe James River in Richmond, Virginia when a storm strikes them.


Bothstories have different character sets, and the theme of death andpremature burials are evident as the main themes in the two storiesrespectively. In “the masque of the red death”, the dominanttheme is that of death and the desire for people to avoid death. Thisis well demonstrated by the acts of prince Prospero the protagonist.In the story, after the country is invaded by the plague of the “reddeath”, the prince decides to hide in his abbey together with hisfellow noblemen so as to avoid death. As the rest of the countrysuffers from the plague the prince hides in his abbey. However, evenas much as the prince tries to hide, the plague finally visits theabbey and the prince and his friends cannot be able to hide in theseven apartments he had set aside for them to hide.

Incontrast “premature burial”, on the other hand deals with thepsychological effects on other persons rather than the first-personnarrator victim as is the case in most of Poe’s literally workssuch as the “masque of the red death.” In this story, the issueof imagined suffering through premature burial is overemphasized andPoe makes sure that he gives the reader enough precedents ofpremature burial in order to invoke the concept of imagined sufferingin the readers mind. However, the final embarrassment and anticlimaxof the boat incident leaves the reader much more confused at the endthan they were at the beginning. This is because the issue of orpreoccupation of death is greatly contrasted to the dreams of deathin the boat during the storm.

Inthe first story there is a significant use of symbolism. First, thetitle of the short story itself is symbolic of the kind of story thatthe reader expects. From what the narrator presents it is clear thatthe plague that devastates the country is not well known but theblood spots left on victims as a result of excessive hemorrhage couldbe the reason why the story is given this title. Secondly, it isclear that the last guest of the prince, is the dreaded mask of thered death. This is uncovered by the other noblemen who had takenrefuge in the prince’s abbey. Symbolism is also presented in manyother sections of the short story.

Onthe other hand, symbolism is not a key theme in “premature burial.”In this story, the narrator uses premature death as symbolizingpeople’s fears that in turn cause them to be in a situation of“premature death”. This is because worrying constantly can makepeople to become less active and thus fail to take risks and as aresult fail to realize their real potential. Thus if this happens toanybody then they are as good as dead, thus they have met a prematuredeath. There are other incidents where symbolism is evident withinthe story. For instance, the dream that the narrator had on the banksof James River when they were hit by a storm may be used to symbolizerisks that people fail to take in their lives. Instead of taking therisk and moving on the narrator chose to stay behind and wait for thestorm to end. This indicates that the narrator lost an opportunity tomake a difference in their lives.


KevinJ. Hayes, Kevin, J. theCambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe.New York City: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print

Regan,Robert. Poe:A Collection of Critical Essays..Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1967. Print

Sova,Dawn, B.&nbspEdgarAllan Poe: A to Z.New York: Checkmark Books, 2001. Print