DEATH PENETRATES EVEN
THE WALLS OF THE WEALTHY
20 September 2013
Stories can be taken literally or can be analyzed through and through. With some stories it is worth the time to reflect and ponder the hidden themes that are purposely placed within the text by the author. As is so with The Masque of the Red Death written by Edgar Allan Poe. This short story describes a tale of horror that can either be considered as very simple with no deeper meaning or extremely intricate with diverse meanings and symbolism. From beginning to end of the narrative, Edgar Allan Poe uses multiple metaphors to illustrate the theme of how one cannot hide from death, it is an inevitable part of life.
The Masque of the Red Death tells the story about a disease called the Red Death that devastated a whole land. It is introduced to the reader in the beginning of the book, “ The Red Death had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal- the redness and the horror blood…” (43). The red death caused the victims to die quickly and abnormally as it attacked a whole land. Although this disease kept growing throughout the country, a prince by the name Prospero felt happy and hopeful about his life so he decided to escape from death by hiding and isolating himself at his abbey. After a few months, the prince planned a masquerade to celebrate his life and pleasure. Red death made his presence in the form of a man and kills everyone in the castle including the main character, Prospero. The story itself shows quite literally that man cannot hide from death, even if you lock yourself away in a castle. In this case it was death, the man. After analysis one can see how Poe metaphorically supports the very same theme. A clear metaphor of life and death is demonstrated by the architectural layout of Prospero’s abbey. There are seven rooms that are purposely decorated. The rooms in the castle have different colors that represent the seven different stages of life. The first room was decorated in blue. There were blue stained glass windows, representing the beginning of life. The second room was arranged all in purple, followed by rooms that were dressed in green, orange, white and violet representing the middle stages of life. The last and the most disturbing room were all in black with red windows. “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 carpet of the same material and hue. But in this chamber only, the color of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations” (45). The predominant color of this room is red symbolizing blood and affliction, the end of life. The color of black represented darkness. With death, brings darkness. The death of a family member brings darkness to others, and because the afterlife is unknown, many believe that death brings darkness to the individual who suffers it.
Poe placed another metaphor within the room of death itself. In the room there was a large ebony clock that ticked loudly and distracted all the guests. People stopped talking and the orchestra stopped playing. This clock symbolizes the final judgment, when everyone’s life comes to an end. The loud ticking reminded everybody of the limited time they had on this earth. These metaphors explained above show how the guests nor Prospero could escape death. Death is an essential part of the life cycle. Many people did not like entering the “death” room, but could not escape it because of the constant reminders from the large clock. In life we can choose to avoid death, but there will always be a clock that reminds us that death is lurking in another room. Poe personifies Death in the form of