Themes and Symbols in Poe's The Masque (Mask) of the Red Death Essay

Themes and Symbols in Poe's The Masque (Mask) of the Red Death Essay

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Themes and Symbols in The Masque of the Red Death  

   The literature of Edgar Allan Poe can either be viewed as extremely simple or incredibly complicated, and his short story "The Masque of The Red Death" is no exception. This story can either be viewed as a simple story of horror, with no deeper imbedded meanings, or it can be broken down into many symbols with several possible meanings. Perhaps this story tells of the struggle between man and death, perhaps it speaks of an author's struggles and dreams, or perhaps it was merely written as a tale of horror. Arguments can be made to support all of these overall themes, and there are even more points of view offered about the story that can be explored if someone wishes to find a view with which he or she can better understand or identify.

One possible theme of the story is that it is nothing more than the imaginings of a dreaming mind. According to Richard Wilbur, this is partially shown through the geometry contained in the story. He states that, "Poe quite explicitly identifies regular angular forms with everyday reason, and the circle, oval, or fluid arabesque with otherworldly imagination" (269). If Poe used unusually shaped rooms to show dreams, and the supernatural, then with his description of the seven chambers being, "so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn a novel effect" (qtd. In Wilbur 269), it would appear as though either a dream is in progress, or something supernatural is taking place. In this interpretation of the story, Poe is taken quite literally in some ways, such as his terming the lords and ladies at the costume ball as being "dr...

... middle of paper ...

... to a reader personally, and give that person an opportunity to form an individual opinion over it.

Works Cited

Etienne, Louis. "The American Storytellers-Edgar Allan Poe." Affidavits of Genius. Ed. Jean Alexander. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1971.

Halliburton, David. Edgar Allan Poe: A Phenomenological View. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973.

Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Masque Of The Red Death." Bridges: Literature across Cultures. Eds. Gilbert H. Muller and John A. Williams. New York:
        McGraw-Hill, 1994. 495-498.

Wilbur, Richard. "The House of Poe." The Recognition of Edgar Allan Poe. Ed. Eric W. Carlson. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1966.

Womack, Martha. "Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Masque of the Red Death.'" The Poe Decoder. Online. Internet. 20 May 1998.



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