What do all the symbols in "The Masque of the Red Death" mean?

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I don't understand what the symbols in "The Masque of the Red Death" means. Things like all the room colors, and the ebony clock. Can anyone help?????

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2001


To understand the symbolism in this story, you have to have some idea of the general meaning. Unfortunately Poe died and left us clueless as to the meaning of these stories, or indeed whether these stories have any meaning. Any interpretation is your own conjecture.

It is widely accepted that the main theme of the story is death (no surprise there then). The Red Death, clearly, represents death generally. The Prince Prospero is attempting to evade its inevitability by sealing himself and his people in an abbey. Death, the black room, is the consummation and final stage of life, yet Prospero and company consciously avoid it. The clock represents the passage of time, which leads to death, while the seven rooms represent the seven stages of life. There is no consensus of the meaning of the colours. The rooms go from east to west like the rising and setting of the sun - yet another temporal symbol. So, while the Prince has sought to evade death, he is reminded of its inevitability and finality within his seclusion. This culminates in the appearance of the Red Death in person who must guide Prospero to his fate.

Poe is encouraging the acceptance of death as a part of, and the natural conclusion to, life.

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2001

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