Great Master of Words and Intricate Plot in ‘The Masque of The Red Death’
After Edgar was kicked out of West Point he went to live with his Aunt and Cousin Virginia. His cousin was only 8 years old then. After he left them to work he Got news that Virginia would be sent away. In a Frantic state of mind he begins to drink and confesses his love for her in a letter to his Aunt. Soon they become married him 27 years old and Virginia only 13. They lied about her age and said she was 21. Their marriage is described to have been more like brother and sister rather than husband and wife. He adored her and was happy with her but 6 years into their marriage Virginia developed Tuberculosis and died five years later. Virginia was the fourth woman Poe had loved and died. While Virginia was sick Poe tried to make ends meet and write but became a drunk and could not afford to feed her or get her medicine. He wrote “The Raven” While she was sick but only made 14 dollars enough to move to a cottage. He embodied his eternal love for Virginia in the poem “Annabel Lee”. In an essay by Cynthia Bily analyzing the “Annabel Lee” poem by Edgar Allan Poe she points out all the hints that the poem is about his love for Virginia. She talks about how in the poem he writes about how the angels envied her and their love and the resentment Annabel’s kings men had about their relationship. There are clues that the angels were people in society that did not approve of their marriage and the kings men is the family members that did not approve as well. Cynthia believes that the purpose of the poem is not only to show the love they shared but to show the people that disapproved that their criticism and negativity did not stop or hinder their love for each other.
Edgar Allan Poe wrote many short stories. Although he wrote many detective stories one of his most famous short stories is “The Masque of the Red Death”. The story is about a Prince called Prince Prospero who is running away from and trying to avoid a sickness that is taking over and the country. He is trying to escape by locking himself in a castle with a thousand friends. He believes if he parties with his friends and has fun death will skip over him. Somehow the disease enters the castle and one by one everyone dies.
Poe was experienced with death and knew how death would come to everyone eventually it was just a matter of time. No matter what Poe did in his life death was always around taking people one by one like in the story. It is said that the Red Death stands for tuberculosis. All of the woman he loved and was close to die of this disease along with his brother. First his mother when he was 3, then his foster mother Mrs. Allan when he was 20, then his brother William when he was 22 and his loving wife and Cousin Virginia when he was 33. In the story the Ebony clock is mentioned and focused on. It is a symbol that death is always coming for you and time is ticking away. The colors of the rooms in the castle are symbolic to Poe’s progression in life. Blue represents birth, purple represents youth, green represents adolescence, orange represents adulthood , white represents old age, violet represents imminent death , and black represents death itself. In Tracy Caldwell’s analysis essay over “The masque of the Red Death” she goes in depth of the seventh room. The seventh room has the Ebony clock that represents time ticking away till death and the windows are stained red to represent blood. She goes into detail about how the Black room can also be a hint to the Black Death known now as the Plague. Most people believe that Edgar Allan Poe’s work had hints about the future such as the Plague.
Some of Edgar’s short stories and poems have a vague meaning to them. You have to think hard about them to see why he wrote it and how he used his own life for inspiration. One of those types of short stories is “The Pit and the Pendulum”. In this story the narrator is being tortured and imprisoned. He is thrown in a cell that has a giant pit located in the center. And given bread and water that has some drugs in it to make him sleep. When he regains consciousness he notices he is strapped to a table. He is offered food and soon sees rats coming to eat it. He stares at the ceiling to see a pendulum swinging back and forth above him gradually getting closer to his body. He was hopeful he would escape but still scared as he rubs the food on the straps and the rats chew the food and the straps freeing him. He is then put back into the cell and notices the walls are hot and moving closer to him forcing him closer the pit. Right before he falls into the pit the French General catches him and saves him informing him they have taken over the prison.
This story may seem like just a dark suspenseful story by Poe but it is really him explaining how he has felt in his life. At the start of his childhood he was alone and hopeless with his father leaving and mother dying. When he was adopted he felt imprisoned by Mr. Allan and his gruffness. He never felt loved by him only by Mrs. Allan. His first crush, Jane Stanard died when he was 15. She was the mother of a school friend and died of brain cancer. Whenever he was unhappy he would go to her for support. He wrote the poem “To Helen” about his love for her. He became depressed for a short time after her death resembling the prison. Thought his life he has been depressed and can never catch a break. He never earned a lot of money doing anything. While in college he went in debt of 2,000 dollars just for food and clothes. He tried gambling to make the money back but unfortunately never got good enough to make anything. He became a drunk to hide his shame from himself and make him forget everything going wrong. Kind of like the drugged water to make him forget how the cell was laid out and be unconscious while they move him to other areas. When he joined the Army, he used a different name so the debt collectors couldn’t find him and he published a book and soon was kicked out for neglecting his duties. He then published his second book while studying at west point but never made any money off of any publication. He was a prisoner of the lower class but was hopeful it would turn around like with the pendulum. Some say the breaking of the straps and the rats resembles how Virginia made him feel inside. Although he was in a terrible situation the rats helped him stay hopeful and saved his life. Even when his writing wasn’t going well or he was being hated by people because of his critiquing she was there for him to cheer him up and keep him hopeful things were going to get better. The cell collapsing on him with heated walls can symbolize the process of Virginia dying slowly with tuberculosis and her death. It was a long, hard process trying to make money and keep her alive. The general saving him is his death. He had nothing and no one to live for. Even after Virginia’s death he was trying to find a wife so he wouldn’t have to die alone. He was a drunken wreck and was finally at peace when he died. His dying words were God help my poor soul. Poe wrote about how glorious death would be and how he couldn’t wait to see the woman he loved again. Patricia Cohen wrote an article for the New York Times called “Poe’s Cottage, Weak and Weary No More.” In the article talks about how poor Poe was and even living in a cottage he couldn’t keep Virginia warm and fed. If he was alive now he would have had enough money to do anything he wanted. In the Magill Book Review they review the pain and torture the narrator went through but he still was calm though some of the issues he faced. He can’t always trust his senses and he figures that out when the room isn’t like he thought it was just like with Poe’s writings. He thought he was writing amazing work but the public thought it was too dark and hated it.
Although Poe’s wasn’t popular in his time he is one of the most popular writers of our time. It’s sad to think that even after “The Raven” was written that he got so little out of it. He only accumulated 6,200 dollars over his 18 years of writing. He did so much for literature and the education system that is active today. There is no doubt that Edgar Allan Poe’s life inspired his poems and stories. His life may have not been the base of everything that he has written but it is the reasoning behind a good amount of his writings.
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