Metaphors in "The Masque of Red Death?" : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

What is the significance of the number (7) and colors of the rooms in "The Masque of Red Death?"

-- Anonymous, September 09, 2000


The number seven, to a contemporary reader of Poe, would remind them instantly not only of the seven days of the week, but also of the seven stages which a human being was thought to pass through during the course of their life. These two things indicate the passage of time, an important theme in this story, which is also symbolised in the clock and in Prospero's movement through the rooms from east to west (the same direction in which the sun moves across the sky).

In order to understand the significance of the colours of the rooms, we must first realise an additional theme, which is tied in with the passage of time, that is, death. Prospero's courtiers go to great lengths to shut out the plague, which represents death itself. The moral of "The Masque of the Read Death" is that one can attempt to run away from death, but it ultimately cannot be avoided. The blackness of the seventh room represents death, and the window therein, being red, represents the "Red Death". The party avoid this room, and instead confine themselves to the remaining six light- coloured rooms, which represent life.

Despite the Prince's attempts to withdraw from the grim reality of death, he is forced to chase the mysterious figure through the rooms, thus symbolically completing the seven stages of life, at the culmination of which, in the black room, he dies. Here Poe is enforcing the fact that death is part of life. The fact that the figure is dressed in "the habiliments of the grave", and is able to permeate a fortress which would otherwise allow for no entry or exit, further impresses the inevitability and power of mortality onto the reader.

-- Anonymous, September 10, 2000

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-- Anonymous, December 18, 2000

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-- Anonymous, March 17, 2002

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