Symbolism in the Masque of the Red Death

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Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Masque of the Red Death” is one of the best he has ever written. The tale is about a prince known as Prospero that witnesses a horrible plague known as the Red Death, consuming the entire city. Prospero and his guests take refuge from the people suffering and the disease in his “castellated abbey,” where he holds a masked ball in order to help his guests to ignore what is happening outside the castle walls. Throughout the story Poe uses symbolism to place emphasis on the plague and death itself to unfold this tale of terror. Some of the important symbols in this story are the seven rooms of the castle, the giant clock, and Prince Prospero himself. While hiding in his castle, Prince Prospero holds a masked ball to entertain his thousand guests. The ball was held throughout seven rooms all differently colored as if to make up for the dullness of the outside world. Normally, one would be able to see the entirety of a room and that of the next. However in this case, the rooms are not readily visible in that one can only see the room they’re in and only a portion of the next. In every room there were decorated stained glass windows along with the carpet that correlated with the color of the room. One interpretation of the rooms is that they represent the cycle of life. The first, blue symbolizing birth, purple being the developmental stage of life, green for the nourishment also associated with the development. The orange room represents the setting of the sun, the end of the day or life leading to the white room for the ascension into heaven. The seventh and final room being black velvet represents death. It is in the seventh room that draws a feeling of fear among the prince’s guests and is avoided. The room is entirely decorated in black except for the window panes which were that of a scarlet or deep blood color. There is a fire that prominently illuminates the room where an ebony clock stands striking at every hour. Works


Cited: B, Brandon. "The Masque of the Red Death: Symbolism and Irony." ShadowHydra. October 3, 2007. 11 Sep 2008 <http://shadowhydra.wordpress.com/2007/10/03/the-masque-of-the-red-death-symbolism-and-irony/>. Laurent, Sabrina. "Metaphor and Symbolism in The Masque of the Red Death." July, 2003. 10 Sep 2008 http://www.boheme-magazine.net/php/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=46>. “Overview: “The Masque of the Red Death”.” Short Stories for Students. Ed. Ira Mark Milne. Vol. 8. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. Literature Resource Center. CENTRAL PIEDMONT COMMUNITY COLLEGE. 11 Sept. 2008 http://go.galegroup.com/ps/start.do?p=LitRC&u=centralp. "Poe 's Short Stories." 8 Sep 2008 <http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/poestories/section10.rhtml>.

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