Time Takes Its Toll on All in Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allen Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" takes place in seven connected but carefully separated rooms. The significance of the number seven is apparent throughout our society. The bible chronicles the creation of the world in seven days, there are seven wonders of the world, colleges and universities divide learning into seven subjects and an individuals life is thought to have seven stages. Seven also symbolizes fear and doom as in the seven signs of the apocalypse. Therefore, the seven rooms represent a person's life from pure beginning to its impending death.
Poe's selected the layout of the rooms for specific symbolic purposes. The layout from the first to the last room is from east to west. East to west, the direction of the rising and setting sun, signifies that everything has a beginning and end. The rooms are also strategically laid out so that you cannot see one room to the next, creating the element of surprise. Poe mirrored the way we know and experience life. One never knows exactly what is ahead of them, but whatever it is, it will always lead one to death and there is no escape.
The colors of the rooms range from light to dark. The first room is blue, symbolizing "truth or insight," "spiritual values, wisdom or healing," (Todeshi, 71) giving the reader a feeling of peace and tranquility like a clear blue sky. The rooms go on leading to a deeper and somewhat darker feeling ending with the last or seventh room. This room is mostly black in color symbolizing an association "with negativity, sin, or evil," and representing "depression, illness, or disease." (Todeschi, 71).
The seventh room also contains a deep red color. This color symbolizes "anger or rage," or representing the "life force." (Todeschi, 73). Poe's choice of red as the color of the death is ironic. The plague takes the form of a red death rather than black. Therefore, blood, the very substance of life, becomes the mark of death.
Another symbolic element of death is the ebony clock. Poe writes "that there stood against the western wall a gigantic clock of ebony" (p. 158). The clock is to show how time keeps ticking bringing you closer to death with every second that passes, and every hour the bell tolls.
This story takes place at a time when a plague has struck the land. Many people think that the Red Death that Poe is writing about could have came from a real life plague called the Black Death, also known as the Bubonic Plague. That plague wiped out almost a quarter of Europe's population in the middle ages. Poe, through his stories, tries to touch the emotion which humans consciously suppress. This is why Poe personifies death in his story. People more easily relate to death when it takes the form of a person that we can see and touch instead of something inanimate that appears without...