Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque Of The Red Death

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Edgar Allan Poe was a writer who believed every single word contained meaning and in his own words expressed this idea in brevity only he is capable, "…there should be no word written, of which tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design." (Poe 244). To this effect, Poe drenches his works in symbolism and allegory. Especially in shorter works, Poe assigns meaning to the smallest object, explicitly deriving exurbanite significance within concise descriptions. "The Masque of the Red Death" tells the story of a Prince Prospero who along with his one thousand friends sought a haven from the plague that was ravishing their country. They lived together in the prince's luxurious abbey with all the amenities and securities imaginable. In the sixth month of isolation masquerader's party is held. At the party, a tall gaunt figure dressed in "habiliments of the grave and a corpse-like mask" enters (Poe 241). Everyone is offended, but to frightened to apprehend the figure. When the "revellers" find courage to attack him, there is nothing tangible within the ghastly cerements. In Edgar Allan Poe's short story, colors and numbers symbolically and metaphorically add depth to the story. Numbers, more specifically, six and seven, appear in the short story, not with specific purpose, but with an overall effect related to the passage of time and the morality of the described situation.

The number seven appears to have the most significance in the story, with the setting of the poem containing seven separate yet connected apartments. Seven is a very mystical number with great importance, there are seven deadly sins, seven days of creation, seven days in the week, seven stages of life, and seven could also represents spir...

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Numbers like colors or objects can be utilized as symbolic references with a powerful effect on the entire prose. A number of possible meanings could be derived from the numbers in "The Masque of the Red Death". It is not a straight forward allegorical reference suggesting that the seven rooms represent the seven stages of one's life, from birth to death. Rather a unity or overall effect of the passing and inevitably of time and death that is achieved.

Works Cited

Kennedy, X.J., and Dana Gioia, eds. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Fourth Compact Edition. New York: Pearson Longman, 2005.

Poe, Edgar Allen. "Masque of the Red Death." 1842. Kennedy and Gioia 238-242.

"I Thessalonians." The Holy Bible. King James Version. New York: Harper & Brothers

Publishers, 1957.
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