Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe

We have been getting numerous requests by students for more Edgar Allan Poe stories on the site. (I thought Halloween was over.) So, while it may not be appropriate for the holidays, as long as they are reading and listening it's a gift to us, we have added Edgar Allan Poe's haunting tale, "The Masque of the Red Death."

The language within the piece is as exquisite as it is horrifying. And, for teachers and parents, it gives a useful example of an "allegory," prose designed to operate with multiple meanings. For example, we can ask what the literal and symbolic meanings of the rooms suggest? Or, we can ask, what the Red Death represents both literally and allegorically? Why do the rooms go from east to west? Is it because the sun rises and sets in a similar manner? And, what could that mean? Birth and death? What's behind the Prince's name? And, why does he leave the people in his care on their own? Or, how about that clock? And, the guests emotional reaction to it? etc. etc. etc.

There are tons of wonderful little tidbits found within this short story that give rise to multiple follow-up questions, essays, creative opportunities for students. So, even though it may not be completely appropriate for the holidays, feel free to assign it just for the teaching opportunities it provides.

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