The Masque of the Red Death


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  • Poe described the seventh chamber by stating, "But in the western or black chamber the effect of the firelight that streaked upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered that there were few of company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all" (Poe 370). Although there's not a set heaven in this short story, there's a fine line between heaven and hell. In this instance, the seventh chamber represents hell while the blood-tinted resemble death due to their color. Overall, the seventh chamber releases a sense of darkness in which those who don't set foot within its precincts are attempting to escape death.
  • Poe elaborated the description of the seventh chamber by mentioning, "...but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, 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 evolutions; and there was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company, and, while the chimes of the clock yet rang, it 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" (Poe 371). The ebony clock symbolizes a time frame. More specifically, it represents a reminder to those in Prince Prospero's abbey of every sixty minutes that they come closer to their death. It also represents intimidation because it reminds those who are trying to escape their death about how soon it's actually coming their way even though they're trying to mute it.
  • As the chime of the ebony clock strikes once again, Poe wrote, "And now again the music swells, and the dreams live, and writhe to and fro more merrily than ever..." to illustrate the symbolic reference of the masquerade (Poe 372). For those who fear the ebony clock, the masquerade is used as a dream-like illusion to delay the time in which they have left to live. The masquerade provides a sense of ease for their overwhelming fear of death. Not only that, but they also go about the masquerade to mute the ebony clock.
  • As Poe was examining Prince Prospero's abbey, he stated, "The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within" (Poe 369). Although there's no set heaven in this short story as said before, the Prince's abbey symbolizes safety. Which, in this case, could be considered "heaven." After stating this, Poe claimed that without Prince Prospero's abbey, there was "Red Death." In a non-allegorical perspective, this is where Prince Prospero keeps people in order to prevent them from attracting the disease; however, the exact chamber that he throws the masquerade in is the furthest away from death he could be at that given time.
  • Poe mentions, "In truth the masquerade license of the night was nearly unlimited; but the figure in question had out-Heroded Herod, and gone beyond the bounds of even the prince's indefinite decorum," along with, "And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night" to portray the fact that the unwanted guest represents the prince's own demon (Poe 373-374). Whenever the ebony clock struck for the last time at midnight, it was time for all to face their own death, especially Prince Prospero since he was trying to escape it all along. In this instance, the prince's demon could also symbolize death considering that's what he's battling with in the first place. The unwanted guest suggests Poe's point in the short story that fate can't be customized, all must die no matter what. In a non-allegorical perspective, the unwanted guest represents the black plague in which the prince was trying to keep clear of.
  • Poe's declaration, "The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety existed" emphasizes his statement, "Even with the utterly lost to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made" which determined the symbolic representation of the fate of the revelers (Poe 373). Although each person has the opportunity to withstand a certain degree of their own wealth, their fate is within resemblance of other's. There's no individual that can determine their own fate considering that ultimately, everyone must face death. The fate of the revelers symbolize incongruity of riches along with Prince Prospero's name itself.
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