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In Edgar Allan Poes The Masque of the Red Death he deals with an unusual theme the attempts of a group of wealthy people to insulate themselves from the plague by shutting themselves up in a mansion and throwing a ball Although Poe was never to write another story precisely like this one his work throughout his lifetime dealt with the theme of morbidity and death Recently some critics notably Kenneth Silverman have postulated that the source of this morbid imagination may have been the loss of so many of Poes relatives and loved ones His short stories and poetry can thus be seen as a process of working through his grief by playing up its morbid aspects This process can be seen in The Masque of the Red Death Edgar Allan Poe was born January 19 1809 in Boston the son of actors in a traveling company After the death of his parents when he was two although some sources including Silverman say three Poe was taken in as a sort of foster child by John Allan a tobacco merchant in Richmond VA Our first clue that Poe had a somewhat abnormal interest in death occurred when he was yet a child he enjoyed playing practical jokes dressing as a ghost or a corpse and frightening family guests This is not in itself an unusual sport for a young boy but Edgar seems to have done it so realistically that people were actually frightened Silverman 32 He also wrote letters describing in the most graphic terms fights and accidents he had witnessed at school I saw the arm afterwards -- it was really a serious matter -- it was bitten from the shoulder to the elbow -- and it is likely that pieces of flesh as large as my hand will be obliged to be cut out Poe quoted by Silverman 31 Again this is not odd by itself but the intensity
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