Araby and Masque of the Red Death

“Araby” and “Masque of the Red Death” and their relationship with vanity

The thesis for this paper is that there are various cases of vanity in these two stories and still the similarities are many than the differences between the two stories in terms of bringing out the theme of vanity. In the story named “Araby” by James Joyce, tells us how people often expect a lot more than what ordinary reality can provide and at the end they are disappointed when they do not get what they expected. The main character in this story is a young boy who was disillusioned with life due to his first adult feelings of attraction and love for a certain girl. He is however denied the expressions of his love towards her by the adult world (97). The overriding theme becomes frustration because the boy is forced to deal with the limits that were enforced to him by the situation that he was in. The young boy has a sequence of various romantic ideas about the girl that she admired and also about an event referred to as “Araby,” which was a common bazaar to which he attributed various magnificent qualities (41). The young boy was to attend this event on the young girl’s behalf.

On the night that this young boy was to attend the event, he waited for his uncle so that he could release him but we find that the frustration of this boy kept increasing and building as time passed on and on. By the time this young boy gets into the bazaar, the event is nearly over (159). The fantasies that he had about the bazaar and more about a certain gift for this girl that was his dream girl are now revealed to us as being ridiculous. All the fantasies and the anticipations that the young boy had of the event and of pleasing his object of affection with the small gift on the event, were only reduced to be fantasies that led to frustrations. Reality turns out to be harsher than what he had fantasized. From this we can conclude that fantasies are all vanity.

In the story, “The Masque of the Red Death” written by Edgar Allen Poe, the writer describes how no person despite their money or continued effort can be able to escape death. Everything is vanity and only death that brings no distinction between the different classes and social status. Through the employment and usage of literary devices of theme, setting, symbolism, irony and character, Poe who is the writer is able to develop a story which is a terrifying tale of the truth. The main character is a man named Prospero who relates with Death. It is only Prospero who is allowed to speak and his character is very foolish in thinking that he could hide from the attack of death. Prospero’s attitude is also very selfish in thinking that “the external world can take care of itself” (614). He also felt gloated when the secluded castle stayed untouched from the Red Death for nearly five or six months.

The main character was left by his father when he was only one year old due to tuberculoses. His mother was an actress but died when he was three years old and shortly afterwards he was separated from his sister and brother. He went to Allen’s family but when he was in his twenties, Mrs. Allen died of tuberculoses. When he was 26, he married Virginia his cousin though she also died later of tuberculoses. Poe’s brother also died of the same tuberculoses. At the end he also died. Poe however tried all he could to prevent death by protecting everyone but he could not succeed. Poe himself accepted that everyone wore a mask through life and this is a symbol of living in denial and hence vanity. He suggested that we should live in reality because our fait was similar and that was death.

The use of symbolism also has brought out vanity in this story and also in the other story. The use of different colors and literal devices to show similarity are very evident. This is because when they were in isolation, the fatal disease is also at its worst and the prince continues to entertain his friends with the magnificent masked ball. The writer describes the costumes that were worn at the masquerade as beautiful but delirious madman fashions, terrible, disgusting and bizarre. This symbolism points us to the symptoms of the disease but the prince masquerades this and perhaps this alludes to that the party was not protected from the deadly plague. The dancers also are described as a “multitude of dreams, nightmarish characters.” (202) This shows a lot of vanity in this story through this use of symbolism. Being regarded as multitudes of dreams shows that they were only living in a world of fantasy and it was not in reality and by this we can conclude that their lives were full of vanity meaning that it was all in vain. The prince had a gate that had bolts of iron welded close together so that it could prevent any other person to enter or even leave. He argued that the rest of the world take care of itself not knowing and recognizing that death could get in through any avenues (203). This is vanity.

There is a contrast of the way the themes of vanity is brought out in the two stories. In the “Araby” vanity comes about because the young boy lived in fantasies and what he had planned did not come to be. In the “Masque of the Red Death,” the writer brings out vanity in that the Prince did not want to accept that death would come to everyone. The other parts were invaded by the plague named death and had devastated the whole country and with time they would also be affected. He had all the resources and all the time but death could not spare anyone. He put up many security measures ignoring the fact that death would still strike when it was time. Therefore we can now confidently conclude that vanity is widespread in these two stories.

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