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The Logistics Of A Lesson Essay, Research Paper

Parable: A short allegorical story designed to convey some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson (Merriam Webster?s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition). An author will often make a statement advising the audience to read in a manner suited for a parable to ensure the lesson is not overlooked. Hawthorne does this in The Minister?s Black Veil by deeming his story ?A Parable? in the subtitle. Poe states in his Philosophy of Composition that he writes tales with an ?under-current? (Poe, p.491) or lesson, one such story this applies to is The Masque of the Red Death. Without these reading instructions, the embedded parable is easily overlooked. Common archetypal symbols are found in parables that discuss the timeless biblical sins (greed, lust, murder, etc.).

The tales which follow reveal the consequences for those who immerse themselves in vanity and gluttony. He who wears the mask has become too aware of what his peers preach. To hide something means to be ashamed of it. These people must confront the reality they hide and realize what is true.

THE STRONGHOLD. The people of these stories not only have a mental fa?ade but a physical one, too. In Masque of the Red Death, a prince and his healthy friends and family relocate to a fortress to escape from a deadly plague. In The Minister?s Black Veil, the minister heads a congregation that meets regularly in a holy building to shield itself from evil. Each of these environments ensures a sense of safety to the people within, who assume they are safe from those evils from which they hide.

THE FOLLOWERS. The people who seek shelter possess traits that are prerequisites to being in the stronghold. Only those who meet Prince?s standards may attend his castelated abbey. Prince Prospero is the symbol of prosperity and happiness. Those who want to be close to this happiness must conform to specific criteria (elite class, good health, and vivacity). Similarly, members of a religious congregation seek happiness by following prescribed religious principles (wholesome lifestyle, marriage through the Church, selflessness, and so on). By meeting these essential demands, people belonging to these select groups think they are superior. Members of a congregation must believe their religion gives the best benefits or they would no longer attend; being saved from eternal damnation is enough for most. Those in attendance at the blockaded abbey belong to a group that has supposedly ensured its salvation from a lethal plague. The reward for meeting these criteria is a sense of security from adversity

THE OUTSIDER. Security is lost when a stranger is spotted within the group. Such a shock brings reactions that create a cascade of emotion. It is the figure?s appearance that defines his unequal status: specifically, the type of concealment over the face. This sole difference is the fulcrum in each parable. The minister?s black veil disturbs the contented congregation because this symbol accompanies death?what humans fear most. All they can do to ease the tension is rationalize to themselves why he wears it. His continuing arrogance to explain or remove the crape leads to his exile from the group. Minister Hooper dies unmarried, childless, without friends, and feared. The mask of the Red Death brings a similar reaction from the partygoers. The masqueraders are shocked that anyone would be so disrespectful to the dead and this reminder of the gruesome reality which was left behind makes them extremely uncomfortable; anyone who is so sick as to adorn themselves with such a monstrosity breaks the rules of a social class which is governed by formalities and unquestioned compliance.

THE MORAL. In invading these established safety zones, both of the disguised figures know the reaction they will receive and it consequences? so why would they do this? Neither is concerned with the response they will receive; rather, each acts as if he has a higher purpose to guide the flock to a realization of their mistakes. Each enters with a solemnity which contrasts such an oddity of apparel. The demonic spectre wants revenge on the revelers and the holy leader wants his spectators to have a revelation of their own secret sin. So what have the people done do deserve such callous punishment? In the case of the extravagant party, the pomp and colorful rooms and music all contrast with the last chamber with black velvet drapes, a bloody hue and an ominous clock.

?There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust. To and fro? there stalked, in fact, a multitude of dreams. And these ? the dreams ? writhed in and about, taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild music of the orchestra to seem as the echo of their steps? (Poe, p.257).

Their escape from reality is a dream. Their delusions lead them to mimic the colorful cheer of each room and believe that they set the tempo. They are too absorbed in their own masks of happiness to notice the truth.

And, anon, there strikes the ebony clock which stands in the hall of the velvet. And then, for a moment, all is still, and all is silent save the voice of the clock. The dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand? (Poe, p.257).

An apprehensive feeling builds with every chime that brings the focus to the dark room on death, but the warning is soon forgotten and the party commences. The veil may be the Minister?s warning to his people that they, too, will be in mourning if they do not recognize their faulted ways. Just as the putridly masked figure marches towards the last chamber and its clock, the Minster is slowly parading his veil for all to see as the clock of Fate ticks away. This is his warning to all that their time to be judged will come, too, and whether or not they choose to admit they wear a mask before this time is up to them.

THE TRUTH. Throughout the tales, the crowd is deceived by the happiness a false reality brings; when the supposed source of happiness is threatened, they are compelled to save it. Suddenly the revelers overcome their fear when the shrouded figure approaches their symbol of prosperity, Prince Prospero. The congregation (often called spectators in the story) also acts as one in communal slander and disapproval of the demon which has possessed their former parson. Maybe the group has too much faith in their source of happiness; this blind herd thinking only results in confusion. Here is a description of Prince Prospero by the narrator:

?There are some who would have thought him mad. His followers felt that he was not. It was necessary to hear and see and touch him to be sure that he was not? (Poe, p.256).

If they ?woke up? from this dream, maybe they would recognize the false prophet who professed such extraordinary vanity. Similarly, the religious multitude was blinded by their own vanity and faith in appearances. Whatever the case, time will run out and everyone will be judged. Truth will over-shadow ignorance when the clock stops ticking.

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