'But first let me tell of the rooms in which it was held. There were seven—an imperial suite.’
Edgar Allan Poe was a master at description and imagery. The details of his stories set him apart from the ordinary writer because Poe’s purpose of horror astounds the reader through his settings, his characters, and the terrifying endings of his stories. “The Masque of the Red Death” exemplifies these details.
Because of the terrible plague that consumed the majority of the citizens of his kingdom, Prince Prospero has moved into a “castellated abbey.” An abbey normally houses the religious leaders of the community, and of course, the prince is the ruler of the state. The abbey built like an enormous castle symbolically houses both the church and state. The Prince since he was hiding from the plague may have thought that the disease would never dare to enter the house of God.
After several months, he tires of doing nothing ; therefore, the Prince decides to have a masque or masquerade ball. Those who are invited will wear costumes to hide their identity. Again, another instance of trying to hide from reality.
The Prince outdoes himself by creating seven rooms that each have a different color scheme. The colors which invade the rooms include from east to west: blue, purple, green, orange, white, violet and last but certainly least black.
The Seven Rooms
There are various interpretations of the meaning of the numbers and colors of the rooms. The analysis that is most often written uses Shakespeare’s idea of the stages of man from the play As You Like It.
The seven stages identified with the color of the rooms suggest the life of a man:
Blue, which is the farthest east, represents the beginning of the day or of a man’s life. Blue suggests birth.
Purple=Growth and in the stages of man, a whining school boy with his satchel
Green=Spring and the youth of man
Orange=Fall and the adult years of man
White=Aging, the age of justice and wisdom from the experiences of life
Violet=This is a combination of several of the previous colors which symbolizes the coming end of life and moving toward death.
Black=Death is represented by the room that is the farthest west which indicates the setting of the sun and the dying of the day and man. To Shakespeare, the last stage of man was oblivion. No one goes into this room probably because symbolically everyone fears death.
In this final room, the coloring sets it apart from the other rooms. The windows are painted red; and with the torch lighting, anyone in the room looks as though they are covered with blood.
The Red Death shows up in the Blue Room and traverses through all of the other rooms until he arrives in the last room where he faces off against the Prince. The people also follow Red Death to unmask him and find themselves in the Black room.
Then, summoning the wild courage of despair, a throng of the revelers at once threw themselves into the black apartment, and seizing the mummer…gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave cerements and corpse-like mask untenanted by a tangible form.
The Prince loses his life along with all the other revelers because no one can hide from death. Death rules over everything.
The Use Of Symbols In "The Masque Of The Red Death"
Everyone fears their own death, thus why some people will do anything to escape it. In Edgar Allan Poe's short story, “The Masque of the Red Death”, this fear is experienced by all. In the story, a prince named Prospero and his people try to elude the Red Death through seclusion and isolation in the prince's abbey. However, no walls can stop death since it is unavoidable and inescapable. Throughout the story, Poe uses symbols such as the rooms, the masked figure, and the clock to convey the theme that no one can escape death.
The image of the rooms used in the story has a main contribution to the theme being conveyed. 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. Poe uses the number of rooms in accordance with the stages of life in a way that the first room symbolizes birth and the seventh room symbolizes death. Also, the rooms are arranged from east to west, the same way time is measured. The sun rises in the east, which is where the first room is located and symbolizes birth whereas the last room is located in the west, where the sun sets, and symbolizes death. The colours of the rooms also has a great significance in the way that they are arranged. The most eastern room was blue, signifying youth and life whereas the most western room was black signifying death. The importance of the seven rooms lies in the seventh and, therefore, the most vividly described room, for it is the last room and symbolizes the end: “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” (Poe 2). The colours described in the seventh room have great significance, they all symbolize darkness and death. For instance, the panes were scarlet, a deep blood colour. The "bloody" red room thus becomes a place of ending not only due to the westward location, but also because of its color. Poe describes the last, black room as the dreadful endpoint, the room the guests fear just as they fear death. The room is feared by the guests because it reminds them of death, which is why no one enters the room. The room is involved in all of the main scenes throughout the course ofthe story. For example, this is the room Prince Prospero and his guests die from the Red Death and also where the clock is located. The reader sees how important the rooms are throughout the story and its main contribution to the theme.
Within the story, the masked figure is used as an important symbol in portraying that no one can escape death. The masked figure, who made its presence at midnight, had not been seen by anyone before. The masked figure is described as “tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave” (Poe 5). Furthermore, when the mask of the Red Death appears, it is shocking to all the guests....
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