The Inevitable Death in The Masque of the Red Death, a Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe

“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 horror of blood” (Poe 446) “The Masque of the Red Death” is about a prince, named Prospero, who throws a party in the middle of a great plague. He spends a great deal of money on the party in hope of keeping the pestilence out. However, it is through the party that Prospero catches the disease.

In “The Masque of the Red Death,” Edger Allen Poe uses characterization, setting, and symbolism to convey the message, death is unavoidable.

Poe depicts Prospero as an arrogant prince who only cares for himself, this is shown especially in the line where Poe states, “When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and lighthearted friends … and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys” (Poe 446). Poe does this to prove his point.

Death is an unstoppable force. No matter who it is, be it a rich prince who hides away from his people, or the people he hides away from, no one can escape the stone-cold grip of death. This is furthermore expressed in the line, “Who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery?”” (Poe 451).

Prospero is shown being dumbfounded that anyone would dare mess with him. He believes that no one in their right mind would mess with him and here is this person mocking him.

Get quality help now
Marrie pro writer

Proficient in: Fiction

5 (204)

“ She followed all my directions. It was really easy to contact her and respond very fast as well. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

It is showing that death does not care who you are. It does not care how important you think you are it catches us all eventually.

“The Masque of the Red Death,” takes place in the time of a horribly-devastating plague. Those who catch it die quickly and painfully. What is really interesting about the setting is the lack of a certain time frame. It is specifically stated what year it takes place in and even though it gives some clues to suggest that it takes place in the past, like this sentence, “When his dominions were half populated” (Poe 446) which suggests that it take place in a time where people rule over each other, it still lacks anything that gives it a concrete time frame. This is interesting because the lack of any certain time frame implies that this can take place at any time which is absolutely amazing because it masterfully helps convey the message that Edgar Allen Poe is sending, no one can escape death, it can come at any time and you have no real way of knowing when it will strike.

Another amazing thing done with the setting is where it physically takes place. The story takes place in, “one of his castellated abbeys” (Poe 446), his being Prospero’s. A castellated abbey is a secluded house that has battlements, or openings for people to shoot through. Poe has it take place in a castellated abbey to show that you cannot hide from death, and you cannot protect yourself from death. No matter how hard you hide, no matter how secluded you become death will find you and you will eventually die.

Edgar Allen Poe uses symbolism masterfully throughout most of his stories. He does it in a way that can be understood and in a way that you can take what you want from it. “The Masque of the Red Death,” is no different. Like most of his stories, Poe filled the story with symbolism. A very prominent one being the colors of the seven rooms. In the story, there are seven rooms throughout the abbey each colored differently. In order they are, blue, purple, green, orange, white, violet, and black. Each room was a solid color with tented windows to match except for the black room, “the color of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet –a deep blood color” (Poe 447).

The seven colors of the rooms symbolize the seven stages of life, with blue being birth, purple being youth, green being adolescence, orange being adulthood, white being old age, violet being approaching death and black being death. It’s done this way in order to emphasize the final moments of Prospero’s life. As he chases the figure through the first six rooms where he finds it stopped in the violet room,

approaching death, and then his dead body is found in the black room, death. Another big point of symbolism in the story is the clock. Poe uses clocks as a symbol a lot. In this story, the clock is used to show that we are all running out of time. It comes from the sound of the clock in the lines, “There came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause,” (Poe 448). The clock is loud and stops everything in the room even the musicians. It symbolizes the ominous power of death which stops everything with its presence.

Edgar Allen Poe’s brilliant usage of characterization, setting, and symbolism, in “The Masque of the Red Death,” convey the message that death is unavoidable. His use of characterization helped show that no matter who you are death will come any way. His excellent use of setting helped show that death is timeless and you cannot hide from it and his masterful use of symbolism showed the ominous power and unavoidableness of death. The thing about Edgar Allen Poe is he often has a very negative outlook. Although Poe’s works were magnificently written and disserve to be a part of American literature his outlook on life and death can be a little saddening, but they can also remind us to live life to its fullest. Instead of living day to day we should live each day as if it were our last.

Cite this page

The Inevitable Death in The Masque of the Red Death, a Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe. (2023, Feb 13). Retrieved from

Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7