Symbolism in Edgar Allen Poe's The Masque of the Red Death

The Masque of the Red Death, a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, includes several symbols dealing with life and death. Each symbol signifies something in the story and helps teach lessons about life. The ebony clock, for instance, represents the time of death, and “Red Death” represents a deadly, uncontrollable disease spreading in the rural area around. Poe’s imagery and symbolism convey the theme that death is inescapable.

Poe employed symbolism to set the mood of the story. The wealthy Prince Prospero and his guests try to escape the Red Death by locking themselves inside a castle.

When one contracts the Red Death, There were sharp pains and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow men”.

Poe describes the mood and setting of the short story the personification of Red Death makes this symbol life-like of the Red Death.

This portion of the story provides details about the frightful disease and explains the fear that the guest feels when the bloodstained intruder enters castle. The ebony clock is a big, brown wooden contraption that symbolizes the flow of time. The narrator explains, “the clock should produce in them no similar emotion; and then, after the lapse of sixty minutes (which embrace three thousand and six hundred seconds of Time that flies), there came yet another chiming of the clock, and then were the same disconcert and tremulousness and meditation as before”.

Get quality help now

Proficient in: Fiction

5 (339)

“ KarrieWrites did such a phenomenal job on this assignment! He completed it prior to its deadline and was thorough and informative. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

Poe’s usage of the clock conveys the theme that death is inevitable and that time winds down without waiting for anyone. Poe further develops the theme in character Prince Prospero who believes that he can escape from Death and mortality, but Death is inescapable Poe says, “When the eyes of Prince Prospero fell upon this special image (which, with a slow and solemn movement, as if more fully to sustain its role, stalked back and forth 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”.

Prince Prospero and his wealthy friends had only a matter of time before they would die because of the deadly disease. The author gives a description of the Red Death by using the color Black. Professor Brett Zimmerman a formal writer for several sources states in her analysis “The puzzle of the color symbolism in “The Red Death of Masque,” “black- a mortuary color: gloom, woe, Death, the Devil, the mournful; mental degradation, criminality” (Zimmerman 69). Poe colors of the room make the theme, and tone stands out more for the reader.

Looking at the color Black can give the reader an idea of what it set the tone for in the story.. Poe states” These windows were of stained glass whose color varied under the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened”. The Red windowpanes around the window is in the Black room represent Death and the people who die there. The white windowpane symbolizes Death and Darkness of life. The yellow windowpane symbolizes Death and the dark side of life.

Poe uses symbolism to describe the main details through the blue and Black room, the clock, and midnight. In the story, there is this Black room that out stands the theme it shows “Death.” In the story there is this Black room that out stands the theme, it shows, as Zimmerman asserts, “To mental degradation and Death (Black)” (Zimmerman 69). Prince Prospero and his friends take off into the Black room hiding from Death. The clock is in this room, but the clock does not symbolize Death as the color of the room does. It locates the clock symbolize Death. The clock also expresses about how the guests are cheating Death, but time still goes on no matter what he or she does. Poe states,” And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And darkness and Decay and the red death held illimitable dominion over”. The clock is ticking in the Black room, and it is not waiting on anybody.

The author explores the theme of Death. Prince Prospero believes he and his friends could escape Death. One theme in the short story No man can escape Death. The tone is a horror that’s about the Red Death. The author use imagery and symbolism throughout the story. Death is inescapable, and time does not wait on anyone.

Cite this page

Symbolism in Edgar Allen Poe's The Masque of the Red Death. (2023, Feb 13). Retrieved from

Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7