Symbols And Symbolism In Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque Of The Red Death

2006 words - 8 pages

 
"The Red Death had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and it seal - the redness and the horror of blood..." - Edgar Allan Poe (Regarding the plague of the Red Death)

The plague Edgar Allan Poe spoke of in his short story The Masque of the Red Death was one of complete and utter misery that defaced whomever it struck. While this pestilence was surging throughout the country mentioned in the story, a man by the name of Prince Prospero decided to attempt to cheat death out of its cold and icy grip. He along with a group of the most elite of the time closed themselves in one of the Prince's abbeys to try to wait out the death that lurked everywhere outside the castle walls.

Several months after their escape from civilization, Prospero held a masked ball for his friends, when to their utter horror, death made its way in and killed all of the masqueraders. Through this short story, Poe depicts the underlying theme that death is inevitable, and trying to escape it is one of the most futile actions one can do. By reading this piece, the reader gains a lot of insight into the way Poe's mind worked, and the events in his life that inspired him to write in the way that he did. Pieces Poe wrote, such as "The Masque of the Red Death," show the intertwined nature Poe's stories took with his real life situation.

The most profound characteristic surrounding "The Masque of the Red Death" is the symbolism Poe incorporates into even the simplest of elements. Symbolism runs rampant throughout the story, and, to the unaware reader, these gems of Poe's character may be overlooked. The peculiar characteristic about the symbolism Poe depicts is that all the topics surround the idea of death/dying and the eccentric. For example, near the beginning of the story a detailed description of the abbey is given, and its bizarre nature is quite apparent right from the start. There were seven rooms (representing the seven ages of man) in the suite where the masquerade was held, and each room had a different overall color from blue decoration and window in the east wing to black decoration and blood red window in the west wing (Womack np). The significance of the blue and black/red coloring has to do with blue symbolizing the dawn of life as the sun rises in the east and shines bright, whereas black/red symbolizes the ending of life as the sun sets in the west and all is dark (Burduck 88).

Another symbol Poe utilizes in his description of Prospero's castle is that of the large ebony clock which is located in the blackness of the west wing. Every hour, whereupon the clock would chime, the partygoers stop whatever they were doing and it is noted "the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation" (Womack np). The clock symbolizes the passing of each and every precious second of life,...

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