Week 11 Forum: Friday Reading- The Masque of the Red Death

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    Zoe Tew

    Upon reading The Masque of the Red Death, I initially felt anger at the people partying and ignoring the contagion going on in the world outside of their abbey. Their actions are selfish, valuing their own pleasure and comfort above the health and lives of others. They choose to create their own little universe, avoiding real life disasters, giving no thought or grievance to the Red Death- completely discriminating against the ill. In the end, they are not immune, and their wealth and celebrations cannot save them.
    Despite my anger and frustration with their actions, especially because they reflect the actions of many today during the COVID-19 pandemic, I was forced to think more about people’s responses to such kinds of pandemics. Obviously, it is wrong to ignore the problem and to discriminate against those who are suffering from it. However, should we be anxiously wallowing and grieving constantly? Even if we are able to not be anxious in the face of the virus, is it right to ponder it so much, letting it be the topic of every conversation, nearly captivating our every thought? These past few days in quarantine I have noticed myself feeling guilty when I experience joy. When I go for a sunny walk with my dog, or finish a great book, or laugh with my family, I cannot help but feel convicted. It feels wrong to be happy, when I know that the experiences I am having are only occurring because others are seriously suffering from this virus. Something I am working to improve that the people in the story obviously neglected was activism and engagement with the problem. I believe that the fear and sorrow the virus produces should fuel those of us who are not suffering to join the cause and positively contribute.
    I am trying to find balance. I do not want to be ignorant and foolish, like the people in Poe’s story, valuing my own life and priorities above the life and wellness of others. However I do not want to let this virus consume me and become an obsession- I do not want to give it the satisfaction of ruling my life. I am seeking to be compassionate, informed, cautious, hopeful, and active.

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