Edgar Allan Poe- Grotesque

Edgar Allan Poe- Grotesque

When one thinks of the word grotesque, they may begin to think of something disgusting or horrific such as Frankenstein. The literary meaning for grotesque could in fact be “ambivalently abnormal”(jahsonic. com). This is the coexisting of two separate modes, such as comedy and tragedy. The result is a disturbing fiction wherein comic circumstances prelude horrific tragedy and vice versa (georgiasouthern. edu). Edgar Allan Poe may in fact be the father of grotesque literature.

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Poe not only brings a sense of horror to his poetry, but is able to bring some sort of twisted comedy in as well. In Poe’s The Masque of Red Death, he describes the fact that humans are powerless when it comes to evading death. This life and death allegory is a good example of grotesque literature. The story begins by describing the Red Death plague that has spread throughout the fictional country. Ironically, Prince Prospero is the only character of this story. Prospero decides that he is going to lock the gates of his palace to keep safe from the plague.

One night Prospero decides to throw a party, where he has decorated seven rooms. Each room was decorated in one color. The last room was a black room with red windows. These rooms represent the cycle of life, while the black room is death. As the party proceeds, a man with a red masque enters and begins to frighten some guests. Prospero becomes angry that someone would attempt to disturb his party. He tries to track the masked man down, and finally does in the dark ominous room.

When Prospero begins to brave the masked-man he immediately dies. Every other person who tries to attack the masked-man all die as well. Prospero’s plan of safety from the Red Death ultimately fails. Prospero has everything one could ever ask for. During this tragic time for the people of his country, Prospero is only worried about himself. The fact that he even throws a party shows that he has little or no worry about the plague. Prospero believes that his riches can protect him from anything.

This is the comic side of this grotesque piece of literature. The party is meant to be a good time for Prospero, but ends in horrific fashion. Poe describes how one cannot escape the hands of death, not even the rich and mighty Prince Prospero. In this story Poe even depicts the death as red, which is the same color of blood that in fact, gives us life. The grotesque image of the man in the red masque symbolizes death, and how it comes like a thief in the night. We never know when death is near and have no way of escaping.


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