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"The Masque of the Red Death", originally published as "The Mask of the Red Death", is a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe and first published in 1842. The story follows Prince Prospero's attempts to avoid a dangerous plague known as the Red Death by hiding in his abbey. He, along with many other wealthy nobles, has a masquerade ball within seven rooms of his abbey, each decorated with a different color. In the midst of their revelry, a mysterious figure enters and makes his way through each of the rooms. When Prospero confronts this stranger, he falls dead. The story follows many traditions of Gothic fiction and is often analyzed as an allegory about the inevitability of death, though some critics advise against an allegorical reading. Many different interpretations have been presented, as well as attempts to identify the true nature of the disease of the "Red Death."
The Clock: The ebony clock represents time, specifically as it relates to death. As the masquerade goes on, the guests become increasingly aware of the passage of time, counting every second of each hour and halting their activities every time the clock chimes. Despite their attempts to escape the Red Death, the clock reminds Prospero and his friends that their revels must come to an end, as the clock counts down to the inevitable arrival of death.
During the peak of the plague the half-mad prince organizes a masquerade ball. Each of the seven rooms of the abbey is decorated with a different color. A mysterious stranger appears, causing the death of Prospero and other guests.
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in the newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. . . . For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
Creating a certain atmosphere through linguistic means is something Poe is well known for. Most of the time it is a dark atmosphere, like in other short stories such as The Black Cat (1843) or The Fall of the House of Usher (1839), that is supposed to evoke a certain fear and caution in the reader. There are essential points one can recognize when reading the short story, which must also be read as an allegory. It features a set of unambiguous symbols whose meanings combine to convey a message. An allegory always operates on two levels of meaning: the literal elements of the plot (the colors of the rooms, for example) and their symbolic counterparts, which often involve large philosophical concepts (such as life and death).2 On the one hand, for example, Poe gives the impression that the characters are confident in the plot while they are amusing theirselves at the masquerade ball in Prince Prospero's luxurious abbey. On the other hand, the reader always knows that not everything will turn out well and that the mood is always characterized by nervousness. Additionally, Poe adheres to his methodology for writing a perfect short story: the story is, due to its length, readable in one sitting, it ends with a climax and all of the details of the story contribute to the overall intention of the plot, also known as the "Unity of Effect"3
According to this statement, one can recognize that the moral of this tale is that, apart from a person being rich or poor, time passes equally for all of us, making death the last justice in life. This makes the reader aware of Prince Prospero being conscious of his morally reprehensible action. He has to admit that all his guests will share the same fate as all the other people in the kingdom who are not participating at his masquerade ball.13 The period of time a person has before succumbing to their fate can, nevertheless, be delayed under certain circumstances, as this short story portrays. However, in the end, every person will have to cope with death. Poe also reminds the reader that between the passing of each hour, there elapses "three thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time that flies."14 Furthermore, each tick of the clock forces the guests to consider their own mortality. For this reason, time also becomes a symbol for unstoppable forces, the ones no one can escape.
Many literary scholars argue that the most important theme in The Masque of the Red Death is the inescapability of death. The entirety of the royal guests on the masquerade ball believes that they are safe from the deadly plague that came over the land, causing misery and death in its wake. For the most part, exactly this is the picture that should be conveyed, with the reader realizing at a certain point that there is no way to actually escape death by such physical barriers as high walls and iron gates. Nevertheless, it is in the nature of man to strive with all means to escape from such desperate situations, and morally reprehensible behavior is ignored at the latest at life-threatening points in life.15 2b1af7f3a8