“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 of blood” (Poe 373). As the terror of the red death ravaged the kingdom, Prince Prospero and his people attempted to cut themselves off from the outside world and escape their eventual death. Through the use of symbolism, setting, and indirect characterization, author, Edgar Allen Poe uses the tragedy of prince Prospero and his people to illustrate the idea that time is continuous and ensuing death is inescapable.
Poe first develops this theme by using symbolism. As the people of the castle partied and forgot about the world around them, the grandfather clock in the black room served as a harsh reminder to the passing time. “After the lapse of sixty minutes, there came yet another chiming of the clock, and were the same disconnect and tremulousness as before” (Poe 374). The clock interrupting the party represented infinite time, and death looming over the party. Poe’s use of symbolism can also be seen in the castle.Order now
The castle is meant to represent man’s effort to use wealth or social class to evade death and the restrictions of time. The castle fails to protect the people, and further verifies the point that time cannot be affected. Lastly, the color red is used to symbolize terror and death. Red becomes the mark of death as “Scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim” (Poe 373) indicate the presence of the Red Death. The red windowpanes in the black room represent this death and the terror of the people who die there.
Poe’s uses of symbolism are able to furtively point to the premise that the limits of demise are indisputable. The theme is further developed through the setting of the castle. The layout of the castle helps further illustrate the theme because the people of the castle are confined to seven rooms, which are aligned from east to west. The alignment of the rooms is meant to represent the stages of life, the first room being birth and the last room being death. Because the people of the castle can only pass through these seven rooms, or stages of life, their alignment can be interpreted as the jurisdiction of time.
The color of these rooms also complements the theme. The color of the last room, which is black, represents death, and it is were the people of the castle eventually end up. Lastly, the atmosphere of the castle is able to contribute to the theme by representing the ignorance and misconception of the castle dwellers. Their belief that they could evade the plague and their eventual death only validates the theme that death is unavoidable, no matter what your attitude. The theme is conclusively demonstrated through the use of indirect characterization.
In the story, it is implied that prince Prospero believes he can escape the limits of time and mortality. As the plague destroyed his kingdom, the prince attempted to outlive the plague by locking himself in his castle. His efforts were unsuccessful and eventually, death was able to intrude the castle. Another example of indirect characterization is the masked man in the castle. The peoples’ shock and fear to discover the masked man explains that he remained hidden entire time.
When the eyes of the Prince Prospero fell upon this spectral image (which, with a slow and solemn movement, as if more fully to sustain its role, stalked to and fro among the waltzers) he was seen to be convulsed, in the first moment with a strong shudder either of terror or distaste; but, in the next, his brow reddened with rage. ” (Poe 378 ). As the masked man’s discovery undermined the castle’s effort to escape, and enraged the prince, it confirmed the theme that it was only a matter of time before the looming death it showed itself.
The use of indirect characterization is additionally used to explain that the people of the castle are the wealthiest members of society. The fact that they are some of the prince’s closest friends, and that they are wearing fancy masquerade costumes, suggests that they are part of the highest social class. Their wealth helps prove the theme that inevitable death is unaltered by human actions. In Masque of the Red Death, Poe is able to use the prince’s obliviousness, and the eventual death of his people, to suggest that time is infinite and death predestined.
While the grandfather clock interrupting the prince’s party signifies passing time, the castle is able to further support the theme by representing peoples’ effort to avoid death. Finally, through indirect characterization the prince’s ignorance is revealed in his attempt to survive. Death’s eventual intrusion in the party conclusively signifies the limits of time. As Poe definitively pronounced: “Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all” (Poe 380).