Essay, Research Paper: Masque Of The Red Death

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In Edgar Allen Poe’s story “The Masque of the Red Death”, he uses
symbolism of the rooms, time, and the red death to portray his theme that no one
can escape death. The masque was held in Prince Prospero’s imperial suite that
consisted of seven different and symbolic rooms. The fact that there where seven
rooms was symbolic in itself. Many believe that the world was created in seven
days. It was also said that there are seven stages in a person’s life. I think
Poe used the number of rooms in accordance with the stages of life. The rooms
were arranged from east to west with the same process which we measure time. In
the east, the room was blue as day and the western room was black as if the sun
had set hours ago. The rooms were not arranged so one could see completely into
the future rooms. Poe stated,” The apartments were so irregularly disposed
that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. There was a sharp
turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn a novel effect.” I
think Poe shows that the path of life is not easily predictable. Each stage was
different and had “a novel effect”. The windows in each room were colored
the same as room it looked upon except the windows in the black room. The
windows in this room cast a scarlet hue on the giant ebony clock on the western
wall. Poe used this color to link the relationship of time and death. The ebony
clock at the end of the seven rooms signified the end of life. If it was
possible to look through all seven rooms and see the clock on the wall it would
be the same as looking down the barrel of a gun and finding the bullet of a
timely but certain death. The hourly bellow of the clock ceased the orchestra
and a brief discontent overcame the courtiers as if time had stopped. The clock
reminded everyone hourly that the end was getting closer. Poe wrote,” the
musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their
performance, to hearken to the sound; and thus the waltzers perforce ceased
their evolution’s; and there was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company;
and, while the chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest
grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as
if in confused reverie or meditation.” When the chiming stopped everyone
returned to the comfort of the warm music and laughter. The night grew older and
the party proceeded towards the black room. No one dared to set foot on the
black carpet. The clock struck midnight and the music stopped. Everyone then
became aware of the presence of a “masked figure which had arrested the
attention of no individual before”. The prince did everything he could to keep
the red death away. He protected the courtiers and himself behind “ A strong
and lofty wall”. “This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having
entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts.” Poe proved
that the prince tried to have everything inside the walls to survive by saying,
“The external world could take care of itself. The prince had provided all the
appliances of pleasure.” Only until the last stroke of the twelfth hour did
the prince feel the safety of the magnificent walls of the castellated abbey. On
the last stroke of midnight the strange figure appeared in the black room in the
shadow of the ebony clock. When the prince saw this mockery he demanded the mask
be removed to unveil the soon to be hung guest. The prince, armed with a dagger,
followed the figure into the black room. Poe wrote,” There was a sharp cry
–and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which instantly
afterwards, fell prostrate in death the Prince Prospero.” Death had struck the
prince’s masque. The courtiers then attacked the tall figure whom stood in the
shadow of the clock. “Then, summoning the wild courage of despair, a throng of
revelers at once threw themselves into the black apartment, and, seizing the
mummer, whose tall figure stood erect and motionless in the shadow of the ebony
clock, gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave-cerements and
corpse-like mask which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by
any tangible form.” The figure, who stood in the shadow of the clock, now
casts a shadow on revelers who lie dead on the ground. Prince Prospero and his
courtiers could not escape death. Masked with it own identity, Death came like a
thief in the night and took and “held illimitable dominion over all.”

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