The Masque of the Red Death - Detailed Summary Character Analysis Themes Symbolism Imagery Allegory Questions

4 Ocak 2014 Cumartesi

The Masque of the Red Death - Edgar Allan Poe

A terrible disease called the Red Death has struck the country. It's incredibly fatal, horribly gruesome, and it's already killed off half the kingdom. But the ruler of these parts, Prince Prospero, doesn't seem to care about his poor, dying subjects. Instead, he decides to let the kingdom take care of itself while he and a thousand of his favorite knights and ladies shut themselves up in a fabulous castle to have one never-ending party. Wine, women, music, dancing, fools – Prospero's castle has it all. After the last guest enters, no one else can get in – the Prince has welded the doors shut. That means no one can get out, either…
About five or six months into his stay, Prospero decides to have a spectacular masquerade ball (a ball where the guests where masks and costumes). The setup is weird and wild, just like the Prince who designs it. The ball takes place in a suite of seven rooms, each one dressed up in a different color: blue, purple, green, orange, white, violet, and black. The black room, which looks like death, is awfully creepy – it's got dark black walls, blood red windows, and big black clock which chimes so eerily every hour that everybody at the party stops dancing and laughs nervously. Most of the frolicking masqueraders are too weirded out to go into the black room.
Anyway, the party's in full swing and everybody's having a wild time when the clock strikes midnight. Everyone stops dancing and falls momentarily silent, as usual. Then some of the dancers notice a guest no one had seen before, wearing a scandalous costume. Whoever the new guest is, he's decided to dress as a corpse, a corpse who died of… the Red Death. He's so frighteningly lifelike (deathlike?) he freaks everybody out, and he slowly starts "stalking" through the frightened crowd. When Prince Prospero sees the ghostly guest, he's furious that someone would have the nerve to wear such a costume, and orders him to be seized and unmasked. But no one has the guts to do it, including Prospero himself.
The Red Death masquerader passes within a few feet of the Prince and starts to walk through the rooms, heading toward the black room. Prospero loses it and runs after him in a rage, drawing his dagger as he approaches. But just as Prospero reaches the edge of the black room, the corpselike guest suddenly whirls around to face him, and Prospero falls to the ground, dead. The shocked crowd throws itself at the guest, only to discover in horror that there's nothing underneath the mask and costume. The Red Death itself has come to the party. One by one the guests die, spilling their blood all over Prospero's lavish rooms. The candles go out, leaving only "darkness, decay, and the Red Death."



Death is everywhere in this story, from the opening description of the "Red Death" plague to the closing line about death's "dominion." Images and symbols of death practically drip from its pages, reminding the characters, and the reader, of death's inevitability. The characters in the story all try to ignore and escape death, preferring to stay focused on living life to its fullest. But mortality can't be avoided, as they are reminded when Death literally crashes their party.

Foolishness and Folly

Prince Prospero, the main character in "The Masque of the Red Death," lives mainly for pleasure, as do his friends. Better not to think, and not to grieve, they believe – just enjoy life and keep on laughing. They refuse to give death the time of day, and so when a plague strikes the kingdom, they retreat to a pleasure palace to keep on partying.

Character Analysis:

Prince Prospero

Prince Prospero is a terrible ruler. All he seems to care about is pleasure, which is what it means to be a "hedonist." He doesn't want to spend his time doing anything but drinking, dancing, and laughing, and generally having fun. That makes him an awful ruler, because when the going gets tough, Prospero gets going. It makes him seem selfish too: he just doesn't care about the suffering of his people. He doesn't even want to think about it. Prospero does not want to face death. He deliberately flees it with his followers and tries not to think about it at all, so he can revel in the good times. But his attempt to escape death is doomed to failure: everybody has to die eventually. Prospero's impossible attempt to ignore death and focus only on life's pleasures makes him a classic "fool" figure. Sadly, he learns his lesson the hard way at the end.

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory:

The Seven Colored Rooms

The colors of the seven rooms are just too juicy a detail not to mean something, aren't they? The black and blood red room seems so obviously to represent death, shouldn't the other rooms mean something too? A lot of commentators have thought that, and there is something of a general agreement among many of them about the meaning of the rooms.
Supposedly, the suite is an allegory of human life. Each room, in other words, corresponds to a different "stage" of human life, which its color suggests. The first clue that the suite is allegorical is that the rooms are arranged from east to west. East is usually the direction associated with "beginnings," and birth, because the sun rises in the east; west (the direction of the sunset) is associated with endings, and death.
According to this reading, the blue room, which is furthest to the east, represents birth. The color suggests the "unknown" from which a human being comes into the world. The next room is purple, a combination of blue (birth) and red (associated with life, intensity) suggests the beginnings of growth. Green, the next color, suggests the "spring" of life (youth), orange the summer and autumn of life. White, the next color, suggests age – think white hair, and bones. Violet (a combination of purple and blue, or purple and grey) is a shadowy color, and represents darkness and death. And black, obviously, is death.
Also, notice how there's no red room? Why's that? You might think of red as a better color than orange for summer/autumn, or as a better color than purple for growth. But our guess is that Poe wanted to save the color red in this story especially for its association with blood, fear, and death. That means it's always goes with black, just like the Red Death and the darkness go together at the end of the story, and red and black go together in the seventh room. If there were a red room, it would confuse the color system and obscure the meaning of "red."

The Clock

The big, black, creep clock is located in the black room, so it's not that hard to guess that it's meant to be a symbol of death. More precisely, it's a symbol of the passing of "the Time that flies"  and the inevitability of death. Its eerie chiming on the hour is a regular reminder to the revelers that their lives are drifting away with the time, and that death is approaching. Of course, the effect is enhanced even more by that way the clock has of stopping all the dancing and music – in short, all the life – of the party, and making everyone laugh nervously.

The Masque of the Red Death

1.Why is the name of the disease called ‘the red death’ ?
2.What’s the Prince’s attitude to the red death?
3.How was the life inside the castle?
4.Why was Prince Prospero’s castle different from the other castles? Why were the rooms special?
5.What do the rooms symbolize?
6.What does the clock symbolize?
7.Why did the people avoid of entering the black room?
8.Why was the red death’s costume special?
9.What’s inside the red death’s mask?
10. What happened to the Prince and his friends at the end of the story?

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