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Mirari Lora

Ms. Woelke

Pre-AP English 9

9 November 2018

The Masque of the Red Death: Allegory

In the short story, “The Masque of the Red Death”, by Edgar Allan Poe, Poe uses devices

such as metaphors, foreshadowing, and allegories to help readers understand how everyday

objects in the palace can symbolize or foreshadow that happen later on. The symbols that stand

out the most are the clock, the welded locks, and Prince Prospero himself. The clock symbolizes

or foreshadows the approaching, inevitable death, the welded locks represent the false sense of

security, and Prince Prospero represents the foolish belief that wealth can protect one from death

especially caused by the plague.

Firstly, the clock is an allegory and symbol because it seems like an everyday object at

first, but it soon becomes a simple symbol for a constant reminder and countdown to their (the

guest’s and Prince Prospero’s) inevitable death. At the ball there is dancing, music, and loud

conversations, but as soon as the clock chimed, “the music ceased… and the evolutions of

waltzers were quited; and there was an uneasy cessation of all things” (Poe 3). This is the point

where everyone becomes wary and almost startled because since the clock chimed at such an

unusual time it could indicate that something is wrong and that their plan to escape the plague

might not work out after all. This turned all the party-goer’s attention and made the ball uneasily

quiet making it creepy and unwelcoming for the first time. The first time the clock chimed the

people weren’t very naive or ignorant, they knew something was wrong, and one could tell that,
“the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over theirs brows as if

in confused revery or meditation” (Poe 2). This helps readers understand that the clock is a

distraction that could also be a type of warning. Even though the guests acknowledge the clock,

they never take action which could be seen as the people ignorantly overlooking the sort of

warning that the clock gives them every hour. This clock, for that same reason, also seems to be

more and more feared as the story goes on because another chime means another hour closer to

imminent death.

Next, the welded locks is and allegory that gives it a symbolic meaning which is the

protection from death and the plague. Prince Prospero demanded that they had to act on their

own wariness by welding the locks so that, “the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion” (Poe

2). This helps readers understand that the guests and Prince Prospero feared death and wanted to

eagerly escape it. They believed that by welding the locks it would relieve their cautiousness

about the outside world that sheltered the plague and all the death that came with it. Prince

Prospero was sure that they were safe because, “All this security within. Without was the red

death” (Poe 2). Everything seems safe and secure but unfortunately for the party-goers this was a

false sense of security. Prince Prospero’s sense of wariness and precaution was off-guard after

welding the locks. Soon enough everyone would have to suffer the consequences for Prince

Prospero’s confidence and almost arrogancy that made them believe they were safe.

Lastly. Prince Prospero himself is a human embodiment of the allegory of the foolish

belief that his money and wealth could protect him from death especially induced by the plague.

By secluding himself and his friends he started to believe that, “the pestilence raged most

furiously abroad, and that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball
of the most unusual magnificence” (Poe 1). By mentioning his own ball, Prince Prospero wants

to acknowledge that they are safe because of his wealth, which isn’t the case here because, the

pestilence in which he is talking about is the plague, that he so eagerly wants to escape. Prince

Prospero is trying to escape the plague (and therefore death) in the only way he knows how, by

throwing money at it to protect himself. When an intruder that seems to represent death appears

in the seventh room, “Prince Prospero fell upon this spectral image [...] (and) was seen… with a

strong shudder either of terror or distaste; but, in the next, his brow reddened with rage” (Poe 4).

Prince Prospero is enraged because his plan to escape the plague had been abolished by a

presence that mysteriously got into the palace who is also a metaphor for death. Prince

Prospero’s character was arrogant and gullible to believe his money and a few welded locks

would protect 1,001 people from death itself. Although Prince Prospero is wealthy and uses his

money to his advantage, his money cannot get him to the advantage of immortality or enlarging

the span his or others’ life.

In conclusion, “The Masque of the Red Death,” by Edgar Allan Poe, uses allegories to

help the story smoothly incapture and represent the theme of the story. All the symbols help

represent and even foreshadow the events that happen in the story. The clock, the welded locks,

and Prince Prospero are all great examples of that because the clock helps foreshadow

inescapable death, the welded locks are metaphors for a false sense of security or protection, and

Prince Prospero is a metaphor for the foolish belief that one could flee death. Although all of

these have literal representations, their hidden meanings or symbols help readers think a little

more than the regular surface plot of the story. Not only does the hidden symbols/meanings help

move the plot along but it also moves the plot along where it’s easy for readers to understand
while still having a challenging and thought provoking plot.