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Two Stories by Edgar Allan Poe

This study will provide a comparative analysis of two short stories by Edgar Allan Poe---"The Masque of the Red Death" and "The Tell-Tale Heart." As the study will show, despite some important differences, the fundamental message of the author in both stories is the same. Both stories feature protagonists who believe they are somehow exempt from the physical and/or psychological laws and conditions which control the lives of others. The protagonist of "Red Death," Prince Prospero, believes that he is beyond the power of the plague. He believes that ordinary people will be killed by the plague, but that he and his friends are immune. It seems that this immunity is based on more than the fact that he has tried to physically wall out the disease. Before he takes extraordinary measures to keep the plague out, he "summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys" (Poe 874). The Prince assumes that his wealthy friends, like himself, have not been infected with the plague. In any case, it is clear that he believes himself and his friends to be superior to the poor people, because he invited none of them into his barricaded castle to survive the disease.

Just as the Prince thinks he can keep death out, so does the protagonist of "Tell-Tale Heart" think he can keep death quiet, or at least his conscience quiet. Both protagonists think they are in control of events of life and death, and both discover that they are not in control.

Another profound similarity between the two stories and the two protagonists is that both men see themselves as evil, or capable of evil behavior. The Prince fancies himself as an architect of evil atmosphere, exemplified by the seventh room which was prepared with evil glee for the party:

The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that h...

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Two Stories by Edgar Allan Poe. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 07:13, May 31, 2020, from