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The Use of Symbols in “the Masque of the Red Death”

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The Use of Symbols in “the Masque of the Red Death”

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  • April 2008
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Everyone fears their own death, thus why some people will do anything to escape it. In Edgar Allan Poe's short story, “The Masque of the Red Death”, this fear is experienced by all. In the story, a prince named Prospero and his people try to elude the Red Death through seclusion and isolation in the prince's abbey. However, no walls can stop death since it is unavoidable and inescapable. Throughout the story, Poe uses symbols such as the rooms, the masked figure, and the clock to convey the theme that no one can escape death.

The image of the rooms used in the story has a main contribution to the theme being conveyed. Prince Prospero's abbey consists of seven different and symbolic rooms. The fact that there were seven rooms is symbolic in itself due to the fact that there are seven stages in life. Poe uses the number of rooms in accordance with the stages of life in a way that the first room symbolizes birth and the seventh room symbolizes death. Also, the rooms are arranged from east to west, the same way time is measured. The sun rises in the east, which is where the first room is located and symbolizes birth whereas the last room is located in the west, where the sun sets, and symbolizes death. The colours of the rooms also has a great significance in the way that they are arranged. The most eastern room was blue, signifying youth and life whereas the most western room was black signifying death. The importance of the seven rooms lies in the seventh and, therefore, the most vividly described room, for it is the last room and symbolizes the end: “The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue” (Poe 2). The colours described in the seventh room have great significance, they all symbolize darkness and death. For instance, the panes were scarlet, a deep blood colour. The "bloody" red room thus becomes a place of ending not...