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“The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe

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“The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe 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 Edgar Allan Poe uses heavy symbolism and allegory to convey the underlying theme in the story which is the cycle of life. Symbolism is the practice of representing things with a symbolic meaning or character. Allegory is a form of extended metaphor which can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning. The main allegory in the story is the representation of the seven rooms in the abbey with the colors and order of rooms representing the stages in life. The black room is probably the most symbolic amongst the seven rooms and represents the last stage of life, death. The big clock also relates to the inevitable stage in life(death) and as a symbol of passing time.

The image of the rooms used in the story has a main contribution to the theme being conveyed (the cycle of life). 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. “There was a sharp turn at the right and left” this part of the story tells the reader that the rooms are arranged from east to west (the quote explains how someone entering would make a turn to see that there are rooms on both the east and the west) east to west is also the way time is measured. The quote, ”the eastern extremity was hung for example in blue” is more evidence that the rooms symbolized the stages of life because the first room was on the east. The sun rises in the east, which represents beginning. So it’s not hard to see why the first room symbolizes birth.

The seventh room was probably the most symbolic of the seven rooms. This room is supposed to symbolize death as it is the last of the seven rooms, corresponding to the last stage of life. Poe shows many clues to this including this quote,” The color of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations the panes were scarlet – a deep blood color now in no one of any of the seven apartments” the windows were red, which could mean Poe used the color red in association with blood, fear, and death .the windows also caused red light to shine into the room. Everyone was afraid to enter the room because the red light gave the appearance of having the disease. Poe says “There was no light of any kind emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of chambers” This represented the darkness of death as there was no light coming from the candles as opposed to the other rooms where the candles were usually lit. The big, black, creepy clock is located in the black room, so it’s not that hard to guess that it’s meant to be a symbol of death. More precisely, it’s a symbol of the passing of “the time that flies”, as Edgar says so himself in this quote of the story, “ The next chiming came after a lapse of sixty minutes(which embrace three thousand and six hundred seconds of time that flies)” the way he mentions the amount of seconds could mean that Poe sees that every second that passes by is a second closer to death.

Its weird chiming on the hour is also a regular reminder to the revelers that their lives are drifting away with the time, and that death is approaching. “It was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passes their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation. But when the echoes fully ceased, the light laughter at once pervaded the assembly” In this part of the story Poe shows readers that the effect is enhanced even more by that way the clock has of stopping all the dancing and music- in short, all the life – of the party, and making everyone laugh nervously. The ebony clock can have various different interpretations as to what it symbolizes. “The passing of time” and the fear it created amongst the people in the masquerade relates to the overall theme. The last stage in the cycle of life(death) tends to create fear amongst people.

“The Masque of the Red Death” is a story that emphasizes on the cycle of life. The most notable of these examples is the seven rooms which represents the stages of life. The ebony clock and the seventh room represented the last stage in the cycle of life(death) and it’s effect on people. These symbols in the story are important because it makes the reader interested in what they’re reading. That they can interpret a deeper meaning to the story which makes it much interesting to read as opposed to having the book tell you directly what everything means. This is definetly a lesson we can all learn from the story. To expand you writing and giving it multiple meaning for the reader to judge what it means for themselves and expand their imagination.

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