Symbolism in the Masque of the Red Death

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Caitlin Tabb
Professor James Thomas
ENC 1102
4 June 2012
Analysis of Symbolism in “The Masque of the Red Death”
Edgar Allan Poe is famous for writing dark, mysterious pieces that center around death. In fact, many of his short stories are now considered horror classics (Shmoop). In his short story, “The Masque of the Red Death,” the foolish Prince Prospero attempts to escape a fatal epidemic disease known as the Red Death. After half of his people die from the Red Death, he invites many of his friends to one of his castellated abbeys. The abbey is deeply secluded, and Prospero, along with his followers, have welded the doors shut so that nobody can get in. They believe that this method will keep the Red Death away. It seems like a flawless plan until an unexpected guest shows up to Prospero’s masquerade ball. Poe uses symbolism in his story to portray the theme that death is, unfortunately, inevitable. The masquerade ball is the first symbol in “The Masque of the Red Death.” A masquerade is commonly held and participated in by people who wish to hide their true identities. In the story, they’re not hiding from each other. Instead, they are hiding from death. The masquerade is being held in a deeply secluded place, and the doors are welded shut, keeping disease ridden people outside. Hidden behind their masks, and the welded doors of the abbey, the guests believe that they can cheat death. Prince Prospero’s masquerade ball is held in an imperial suite with seven different colored rooms; blue, purple, green, orange, white, violet and black. Interpretations vary as to the symbolism of the seven rooms. One interpretation is that the rooms represent the stages of life. The first clue to this interpretation is the way that the rooms are arranged. The first room lies furthest to the East. East is typically associated with beginnings because the sun rises in the east. Respectively, the farthest room lies in the west, which is the direction that the sun sets...
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