Julia’s Week 11 readings post

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    Julia DiNicola

    After reading “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allen Poe, the story certainly gave me an eerie feeling, particularly because of the similar circumstances we find ourselves in at this present moment. It is hard not to compare the insensible and extravagant festivities of Prince Prospero, lacking regard or concern for his suffering countrymen, to those who are disregarding the “social distancing” guidelines in favor of partying. The name Prospero reiterates his massive wealth, which he did not use to help the poor and ill residents outside his palace, but instead tried to use as a shield to stop death from reaching him and his chosen guests. During the masquerade ball, I interpreted the periodic chiming of the clock, in which the guests would stop dancing and listen silently, to be a sort of warning call to their imminent doom. It was almost comparable to a countdown to the end, since it was described as stopping with the death of the last guest. I also thought it was interesting that the Red Death was personified as a spectral figure, and described as “a thief in the night” (Poe). It seems that Poe was trying to get the point across that no one can escape death, not even the rich.

    In DeFoe’s Journal of the Plague Year, again I was confronted with a haunting similarity to today’s pandemic. In the beginning of the entry, it seemed there was a switching back and forth between disregard for the plague or true fear, depending on what information was available at the time. I believe this mimics the chaos and uncertainty we face in the midst of many different rumors/myths that have been spread about coronavirus. I also found it very interesting how it was described that there were “signs” pointing to this catastrophe, including the comet and the way “its motion [was] very heavy, Solemn, and slow,” mimicking the aura of the plague itself (DeFoe, p.4).


    Hello, Julia.

    I never paid much thought to the Prince’s being named Prospero. Now that you mention it the lavishness of his party does prove that he has little concern about the people outside of his residence. This oddly reminds me of how celebrities are currently talking about cures and test kits for coronavirus and how they can afford testing when it is something the average person cannot afford. As far as the Journal of a Plague Year goes, I think the numbers show that catastrophe was more prominent in specific areas, which led to the masses fearing that if it can happen to one person it can happen to anyone. I do find the idea of using the supernatural to explain such phenomena quite interesting as mimicking the plague does not change its severity.


    Hi Julia!

    I also noted the similarities Poe’s story holds to our current situation today. It made me come to the conclusion that outbreak narratives of multiple variations essentially maintain similar characters: the ones who disregard or down play the severity of the situation. I also liked your analysis of the chimes of the clock acting as a countdown. It did not occur to me that it was countdown, however, I did think of it as a warning bell. Nevertheless, I agree with you what you have said and I want to note that at the core of both Defoe and Poe’s work there is a sense of chaos that underlines their outbreak narratives as well as ours.

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