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Kaden Young

Ms. Woelke

Pre-AP English 9A

9 November 2018

“The Masque of the Red Death” Essay

Using illusion and misdirection, Author, Edgar Allan Poe, keeps the reader on the edge of

their seat while reading this short story, “The Masque of the Red Death”. Symbolic figures such

as the clock, the light and fire, and the welded locks are used to create mystery and illusion. Poe

uses these symbols throughout the story to create an allegorical lesson, a deeper meaning rather

than the literal storytelling point of view. In this story there is a masked man trying to kill the

prince. The deeper meaning of this story is a plague that was going around during the 14th

century infecting people and soon bringing them to a painful death. The allegorical lesson

portrayed by all of these symbols is that death is inescapable.

The clock in this story portrays a warning that chimes every hour to remind the people of

their inevitable death just around the corner. As the first chime of the clock is coming to an end,

“the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused revery or

meditation”(Poe 2). This shows how the clock chime is resembling the people ageing and how

“the time that flies” is catching up to them at every hour. The age represents the plague and how

it is getting closer and closer to them. The last and final chime of the clock, ”And thus too, it

happened, perhaps, that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence,

there were many individuals in the crowd who had found leisure to become aware of the

presence of a masked figure”(Poe 3). This last chime represents the final hour till death because
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the presence of the masked figure refers to their death soonly approaching and ending the

civilians lives. The allegory of this would be that the plague is unstoppable and is reaching the

mansion holding the masquerade party which will soon infect and slowly kill all the people. The

old and ebony clock is a great symbol to help the allegory stand out in this short story.

The light and fire are also very important symbols throughout this short story to help and

explain the deadly plague killing people in the 14th century. There was no light within the suite

of chambers, “But in the corridors that followed the suite, there stood, opposite to each window,

a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire, that projected its rays through the tinted glass and so

glaringly illumined the room”(Poe 2). This bright light or fire shows the life left in the mansion

while all the other rooms are dark and gloomy without any life life left in them. The dark and

bloody rooms are a sign of death and end approaching with only one corridor left with its light.

As the masked figure killed everyone off, “The flames of the tripods expired”(Poe 5). This

shows that as the people died from the masked figure, the light in the corridor was soon dying

out. The fire in the mansion was representing the life and as the fire cooled down and so were

the people that had died from the plague.

The masked figure in the story represents the plague that infected and very painfully

killed people in the 14th century and was unstoppable from spreading. All of the people were

stopped and were put to a halt as the masked figure approached the main doors, “The figure was

tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave”(Poe 4). This

shows that the man was dressed in dead clothes, clothes that people died in. This means that the

masked figure is the representation of death and how the people soon will soon all die from him.

The prince was not having it, he took a dagger from one of his guards and went to kill the
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masked figure himself from entering the party uninvited, “There was a sharp cry and the dagger

dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which, instantly afterwards, fell prostrate in death

the Prince Prospero”(Poe 4). This shows how even the slightest touch of the masked figure can

kill anyone and the prince didn’t stand a chance, it was a small dagger versus one the most

deadly plagues throughout Europe. As the prince died, this represented the end of all the people

as they threw themselves, one after one, onto the masked figure as they were killed instantly

from the plague infection.

The symbols in this short story helped show the readers the allegory and how it helps

explain the importance of the story. The clock, a representation of reminders for the end. The

light and fire, a representation of life and as it fades away. And the masked figure, a

representation of the plague and death. All of these symbols help signify the allegorical lesson,

death is inescapable.