Symbolism In The Masque Of The Red Death

Decent Essays

“The Masque of the Red Death,” a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, tells the story of Prince Prospero and his futile attempts to prevent death. During his masquerade party, the prince notices an unusual figure, dressed as the Red Death, and, enraged at the sight of it, Prospero tries to kill it. Poe uses the seventh room, the ebony clock, and the Red Death itself as symbols of death throughout his story. When first introduced, the clock already induces a sense of fear and discomfort. Every hour, the “dancers and musicians alternate between maintaining their pose of light laughter and gaiety and, when the doleful, deep-voiced clock chimes, becoming pale, uneasy, and thoughtful” (Wheat). The clock strikes fear into the hearts of the party-goers and serves as a brief but haunting “reminder of death, the enemy, and time, his companion” (Wheat). This omen of death comes with a reminder of the limited time before the plague kills everyone. As the clock strikes midnight, the guests “become aware of the presence of the stranger who has haunted the abbey from the beginning … [and] the unfeeling gaiety must give way to feelings ‘of terror, of horror, and of disgust’ ” (Wheat). By chiming at the exact moment the Red Death enters, the clock hints at approaching destruction, thus symbolizing the imminent death of every person at the masquerade. After chasing the Red Death through the suite, Prospero then dies in the seventh room, almost exactly next to the ebony clock. Therefore,

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