Symbolism in the "Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allen Poe

Essay by mrpearCollege, UndergraduateB+, April 2010

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Symbolism in "The Masque of the Red Death"

The Masque of the Red Death is a short story written by acclaimed literary author, Edgar Allen Poe. The story is an emphasis on the fact that there is no avoiding death, no matter how hard you try, which is the overall theme. The text tells the story of Prince Prospero whose town is being plagued by the dreaded Red Death. He attempts to avoid the plague by inviting 1,000 of his closest friends, all of which are variably different, to isolate themselves in his palace. Throughout the story, Poe frequently uses symbolism to depict the theme of the Red Death.

Poe was a master of the English language and even laid hints to the overall theme of the story with simple symbolic phrases. At one point he describes the rooms as densely packed and "in them beat feverishly the heart of life."

He set the mood by describing the party as fruitful only to foreshadow the events to occur after midnight. Of course, this has no real ramifications on the story, but it sets the tone for what Poe intends to accomplish by writing this story.

The literal symbolism in the story is quite prevalent as well. The most significant piece of the story itself is of course the rooms in which the masquerade ball was held. Poe describes seven beautifully decorated suites each for the guests to mingle and socialize in. The rooms are all different and "irregularly disposed" with "sharp turns at every twenty or thirty yards". As Joseph Roppolo would describe, the room's colors each represented a stage of life starting with blue and ending with black decorations and "deep blood color[ed]" window panes. The blue is seen as the beginning of life, moving to...