Symbols in Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” Term Paper

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Feb 1st, 2021

The structure of space in Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”

In “The Masque of the Red Death”, Poe uses space to define division and a sense of safety. His country is being ravaged by a type of plague and his subjects are dying just beyond his palace walls. In his mind, his safety is assured by the space placed between him and the plague by the castle walls. In his imagination, Prince Prospero imagines a perfect world where he can banish death simply by converting the idea of the plague from a terrorizing, death embodying illness to something related to revelry and fun. Of course, he fails in his attempt at both simply because death and time go hand in hand. Eventually, time will run out, regardless of the space you place between yourself and death and then the grim reaper will finally have you.

The arrangement of the rooms and furnishings inside Prospero’s castle

The rooms in the short story are arranged from east to west, in real life, this direction indicates the rising and the setting of the sun. The color schemes he chooses also indicates a pattern of life cycles as indicated by mood colors. The clock in the black room, which looks as hideous as it sounds, serves a reminder to Prospero and his guests that time is constantly passing and each 24-hour cycle that passes signifies the end of one day (a representation of life) and the beginning of a new day (new life). For human beings, the end of a day is dark and sad, typical of the representation of death. Therefore, the clock represents the coming of death.

The symbolism of the Red Death

The Red Death is the symbol of radical egalitarianism from that era and served as the great equalizer of society. It affected everyone, regardless of wealth. The figure gets into the castle to kill Prospero because they have a masque ball wherein the guests are required to wear costumes. So, death easily slips in as a guest at the party. He has Prospero chase him from room to room in the palace to help Prospero come to an understanding of his life and why he finally has to die. Since he served as the lord protector of his guests, he ultimately led them to their doom as well. Making the job of Death easier by gathering them all in one place for easy picking.

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