This essay Period C has a total of 699 words and 5 pages.
The Masque of the Red Death
Poe uses heavy symbolism throughout the story to convey his underlying theme: the
inevitability of death and the futility of trying to escape death. The prince's name, Prospero,
generally denotes happiness and prosperity. The Prince possesses these characteristics yet is
faced with a plague that he desperately attempting to avoid. This oxymoron is used to hint
that this man of exuberance will soon be faced with tragedy.
The fires in each of the suite rooms serve as a representation of death. Poe depicts
them to be "a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire that projected its rays through tinted
glass?But in the western or black chamber, the effect of the firelight upon the dark hangings
through the blood tinted panes was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon
the countenances of those who enter it that there are few?bold enough to set foot within it".
The description is meant to produce a mysterious atmosphere in the west in contrast to a
propitious one in the east. This can relate to the pattern of the sun's movement. The sunrise
in the east represents light and new life for the day. However, the sunset in the west means
the end of a day and darkness. Poe uses the element of darkness as a visual representation of
The black clock is also a symbolic element in Poe's story. "Its pendulum swung to and
fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when the minute hand made the circuit?it was
observed that the giddiest turned pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over
their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation". The timepiece represents the rapid
passing of time in life. Every time the clock strikes the hour, the musicians quit playing
and all of the revelers momentarily cease their celebrating. It is as though each hour is
"to be stricken" upon their brief and fleeting lives. To emphasize the brevity of life, the
fleeting of life and time, and the nearness of death, Poe reminds the reader that between the
striking of each hour, there elapses "three thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time that
The significance of the seventh room is apparent throughout the entire story. Black
usually symbolizes death, and it tends to be used in connection with death. Furthermore, in
describing the black d?cor of the room, the narrator says it is "shrouded" in velvet, shrouded
being a term generally referring to death. In addition, the window panes are "scarlet-a deep
blood color." The relationship between blood and death is an essential aspect because Poe
wants the reader to have a visual image of the blood flowing down the walls as a form of death.
This is an obvious reference to the "Red Death". When the masked "Red death" makes his
appearance, he moves rapidly from the Eastern room (symbolic of the beginning of life) to the
Western room (symbolic of the end of life). In addition, the black chamber furthers Poe's theme.
The prince rushes "hurriedly through the six chambers", but as he approaches the unwanted "guest",
his dagger stops, and he falls dead upon the black carpet. This signifies that death cannot be
destroyed (or avoided) as Prospero tries to prevent his fate from occurring. It is a universal
force against humankind that holds "illimitable domain over all".
Significantly, the appearance of the "Red Death" at midnight is propitious and symbolic.
This is the end of the day, and, by analogy, the end of life. The "unwanted" guest's costume
additionally contains some meaning. The mask portrays the message that death is an event that
cannot be predicted. It is undetectable; a matter disguised as a variety of things in which its
victims are unable to escape from. Death is superior to all defying powers and can overcome
anything, as it overcomes Prospero's "impenetrable" walls to claim his victims.
Poe is highly successful in showing the importance of symbolism to visualize death.
His creative meanings behind several objects in the story further his reinforce theme of
Topics Related to Period C
The Masque of the Red Death, Edgar Allan Poe, Poe, Masque of the Red Death, Poetry by Edgar Allan Poe, masque of the red death, inevitability of death, symbolic element, mysterious atmosphere, life and time, countenances, period c, passing of time, brazier, visual representation, clang, revelers, firelight, prospero, exuberance, brows, timepiece, panes, brevity, oxymoron
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