Thesis: Poe uses symbolism to unfold this gripping tale of terror. I. The first symbol in the story is the name of the Prince himself, Prince Prospero. II. The ebony clock is another major symbol within this tale. III. The black room is the most prominent symbol in the story but is not clear until the end. The mood of this story is set as a description of the Red Death is laid out for the reader.
“The ‘Red Death’ had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or hideous.” (Poe 72) This disease left scarlet stains upon its victim’s skin. Any victim of this disease was totally shunned by his fellow man. The final throws of this “Red Death “were an agonizing half-hour of torment and seizure.
Prince Prospero could no longer bear witness to this, so in fear of his life, he took himself one thousand of his royal comrades and enough servants for all to a secluded abbey. He was sure the seclusion from the Red Death would save his life. He was wrong! Poe uses his supporting character, Prince Prospero, to show the wealth of royalty in this story.
This character speaks of wealth and happiness. Prospero’s wealth was so vast that he was easily able to support one thousand of his royal comrades, hundreds of servants, and a seemingly endless number of parties. However, it is very ironic that the prince of prosperity was the first to die. He was murdered by the main character of the story “The Red Death” itself.
I believe this was to show the reader that one cannot turn one back to society’s problems without feeling the effects. The giant ebony clock screamed with the symbolism of the group’s short amount of time left in this world. This clock had an overpowering chime every hour.
The chime paused its victims with disconcerting and trepidation. This sound was so clear, and loud that it was heard by all, and even the most joyous grew pale. In the end, the clock died just as the “Red Death” had taken its last victim, “And the life of the ebony clock went out with that the last of the gay” (75). The “Black Room” is described vividly.
“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. But in this chamber, the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes were scarlet-a deep blood in color” (73).
This room is a symbol of the end. There were seven rooms, and this was the last one. However not apparent at the beginning it is to be seen of the grand final; where “Prince Prospero” meets his demise by the hand of “The Red Death”. In conclusion, I believe this symbolism in this story is a hidden attempt to show man that he/she can not turn its back to the woes of the world. One man or group can not turn his/her back on society because sooner or later the problems shall come to them.
Poe Edgar Allan “The Masque of the Red Death” Literature: An Introduction to Critical Reading Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. Upper Prentice Hall, 1996. 72 – 76.