Significance of Masks in Future Emergencies

Future emergencies is a story about a city that was testing its preparedness in dealing with an emergency. The report focuses on two people, Victor, and the narrator, who live together. The author of the story expounds on how the city insisted on people collecting their masks. The masks were supposed to be collected from central points to ensure every person had one. The city did not explain to the people what sort of danger had befallen the city. At the end of the novel, the author reveals why the city wanted people to access masks. Masks in the story represent the fears, anxieties, and uncertainties of everyday life.

The author uses masks to represent the fears in her mind. When the author brings the shows home and gives them to her husband to wear, she feels a flash of anger. (Kraus 136). The offense is a result of the way Victor looked when he wore the mask. The narrator notes that “he looked ugly and menacing” (Kraus 136). After that incident, the narrator indicates that she is fighting with the thought of leaving victor. However, she does not have the strength of telling him what is in her mind. The appearance of Victor may have startled the narrator, forcing her to convey the fears she harbors about Victor. The mask is therefore significant as it helps bring out the concerns of the narrator.

Masks in the story convey the uncertainties that plague the city in which the story is set. No one in the town seems to be aware of what is happening around them. Some are of the view that it is a nuclear reactor that failed, while others think there are pollutants in the air. When one person is seen wearing a gas mask on the steps to the subway, people stop to stare at him. The narrator describes the site as unnerving, which shows how the people perceived the masks (Kraus 130). In the end, the people’s uncertainties are solved after the announcement that the masks are for preparation for a future emergency.

The city is gripped with anxiety following reports that people need to access masks from the distribution centers. The mask represents the anxieties that people hold about possible emergencies. At the start, the people are told that there is no need for masks, then after some days, people are told on the radio to go for masks. This situation brings anxiety to most people as the government is not saying what is causing the need for masks. When the narrator goes to pick up the masks at the center, Victor becomes worried when she takes too much time coming back (Kraus 134). Thus, the mask is significant as it is a symbol of the anxieties brought out by the likelihood of impending danger.

In summary, masks are a significant part of the future emergency story. They are a symbol of the city’s fears, anxieties, and uncertainties. The author uses masks to indicate that there is impending danger hence the need for masks. The city residents come up with different theories that aim to explain what is wrong with the air. The lack of a substantive explanation increases the fear, anxieties, and uncertainties people hold about the situation.


Krauss, Nicole. “Future Emergencies.” To Be a Man: Stories, edited by Nicole Krauss, Harper, 2020, pp. 129–139.

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