Denial in “The Masque of the Red Death”
The motif of denial in “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe is important because it helps the reader understand how the prince and his guests can party while the rest of the world is dying. Their denial also makes their realization that they can’t escape the Red Death much more dramatic. One way the reader is shown their denial is when the story reveals that they believe “the external world could take care of itself” and “In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think” (1). The story also says that the abbey they take refuge in has “such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion” (1). In those lines the reader is shown that the prince and his guests choose to deny that the world is helpless and that despite being within the secured abbey they can still be infected by the Red Death.
The narrator says the “prince. . .provided all the appliances of pleasure” (1). Those pleasures serve to keep them busy and enable them to remain in denial of the horrendous situation. When a person goes in denial it’s because there’s a truth that to them seems so terrible they’d rather not accept it as a truth. Consequently, when the people see a man with the Red Death they’re deeply offended because they have now been reminded of the very truth that they deny, that regardless of being within the abbey, there’s still a chance they can contract the Red Death and die. Despite seeing this man, their denial goes so far that they prefer to believe the man wears a “mask” that’s “made. . . to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse” (4). The prince decides to deny the truth calling the supposed insinuation of the alleged masked figure, that the red death was inside the abbey, “blasphemous mockery” (4).
Therefore, in the end when the truth can no longer be denied and everyone realizes the Red Death is within the abbey, the people’s awakening is pricelessly dramatic. Without the motif of denial in “The Masque of the Red Death” the audience would not understand how the prince and his guests can party while the world falls apart, nor would they be treated to such a dramatic awakening.