Essay on Symbolism in The Masque of the Red Death

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Symbolism in The Masque of the Red Death

Poe uses heavy symbolism throughout the story to convey his underlying theme: the inevitability of death and the futility of trying to escape death. The prince's name, Prospero, generally denotes happiness and prosperity. The Prince possesses these characteristics yet is faced with a plague that he desperately attempting to avoid. This oxymoron is used to hint that this man of exuberance will soon be faced with tragedy. The fires in each of the suite rooms serve as a representation of death. Poe depicts them to be "a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire that projected its rays through tinted glass…But in the western or black chamber, the effect of the firelight
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However, the sunset in the west means the end of a day and darkness. Poe uses the element of darkness as a visual representation of death. The black clock is also a symbolic element in Poe's story. "Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when the minute hand made the circuit…it was observed that the giddiest turned pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation". The timepiece represents the rapid passing of time in life. Every time the clock strikes the hour, the musicians quit playing and all of the revelers momentarily cease their celebrating. It is as though each hour is
"to be stricken" upon their brief and fleeting lives. To emphasize the brevity of life, the fleeting of life and time, and the nearness of death, Poe reminds the reader that between the striking of each hour, there elapses "three thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time that flies." The significance of the seventh room is apparent throughout the entire story. Black usually symbolizes death, and it tends to be used in connection with death. Furthermore, in describing the black décor of the room, the narrator says it is "shrouded" in velvet, shrouded being a term generally referring to death. In addition, the window panes are "scarlet-a deep blood color." The relationship between blood and death is an essential aspect because Poe wants the
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