The Mask Of The Red Death
Edgar Allen Poe
Thesis: Poe uses symbolism to unfold a gripping tale of
I. The first symbol in the story is the name of the Prince
himself, Prince Prospero.
II. The ebony clock is another major symbol within this
III. The black room is the most prominent symbol in the
story but is not clear until the end.
The mood of this story is set, as a description of the Red
Death is laid out for the reader. "The 'Red Death' had long
devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so
fatal, or hideous." (Poe 72) This disease left scarlet
stains upon it victims skin. Any victim of this disease was
totally shunned by his fellow men. The final throws of this
" Red Death " were an agonizing half hour of torment and
seizure. Prince Prospero could no longer bear witness to
this, so in fear of his life he, with one thousand of his
royal comrades and enough servants for all, went to a
secluded abbey. He was sure that being in isolation from
other people, would save his life and protect him from the
Poe uses his supporting character Prince Prospero, to show
the wealth of royalty in this story. Prospero's wealth was
so vast that he was easily able to support one thousand of
his royal comrades, hundreds of servants, and a seemingly
endless number of parties. However, it is very ironic that
the prince of prosperity was the first to die. He was
murdered by the main character of the story "The Red
The giant ebony clock screamed with the symbolism of the
group's short amount of time left in this world. This clock
had an over powering chime every hour. If the chime paused,
its victims were filled with uncertainties and trepidation.
This sound was so clear, and loud that it was heard by all,
and even the most joyous grew pale when it stopped. In the
end the clock died just as the "Red Death" had taken its
last victim, "And the life of the ebony clock went out with
the last of the gay" (75).
The "Black Room" is described vividly. " The seventh
apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries
that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling
in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue.
But in this chamber the windows failed to correspond with
the decorations. The panes were scarlet-a deep blood in
color" (73). This room is a symbol of the end. There were
seven rooms, and this was the last one. However not
apparent at the beginning it is to be the scene of the
grand finale; where "Prince Prospero" meets his demise by
the hand of "The Red Death".
Symbolism in this story is a hidden attempt to show man
that he/she can not turn it's back to the troubles of the
world. One man or group can not turn his/her back on
society because sooner or later the problems shall find
Poe Edgar Allan "The Masque of the Red Death" Literature:
An Introduction to Critical Reading Ed. Lee A. Jacobus.
Upper Prentice Hall, 1996. 72 - 76.
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