How do the guests avoid the seventh room in "The Masque of the Red Death"?

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hgarey71 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Masque of the Red Death," Prince Prospero has taken one thousand courtiers with him to a castellated abbey in order to avoid a plague. One night, he has a masquerade party in which the revelers are all dressed in fanciful and outrageous costumes, but none so outlandish as the person who is dressed as the Red Death. The Prince is infuriated by this guest's appearance and orders his removal. No one is brave enough to approach him. He wanders through the suites from east to west and ends up in the seventh room, the room decorated in black velvet with black rugs. The room with scarlet stained glass windows that casts such an eerie glow over everything that all the revelers have come to avoid this room. 

Poe explains that many palaces have entertainment space which consists of  rooms that create one long space, unimpeded by anything once the folding doors are open. But since Prospero has a penchant for the bizarre, this abbey is designed differently. The apartments, or suites, are arranged in such a way that one cannot see but one room at a time. The rooms are arranged from east to west. The seventh room is the westernmost room, so guests simply avoid entering this room with the ebony clock and sable colored furnishings. 

"The apartments were so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn a novel effect. To the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor which pursued the windings of the suite. These windows were of stained glass whose color varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened."

  "The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue. But in this chamber only, the color of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet—a deep blood color. Now in no one of the seven apartments was there any lamp or candelabrum, amid the profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro or depended from the roof. There was no light of any kind emanating from lamp or candle 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. And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances. But in the western or black chamber the effect of the firelight that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all." 


mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Masque of the Red Death," the revelers avoid the seventh room because the "effect of the firelight...was ghastly in the extreme,"   The shadows and colors that it casts upon the faces of those who might enter creates such a frightening and wild appearance that people are reluctant to enter because of fear or repulsion.  Poe writes that "few [were] bold enough."

sstaylor | Student

My son and I are covering this story right now.  He has an assignment to draw the castellated abbey of Prince Prospero.  Based on our understanding of the story, the rooms flow from east to west, with the black room being last.  The revelers simply "don't go there", as they are not required to go to it/through it to reach any of the other rooms.  They also are probably trying to avoid it, due to its' death the.

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The Masque of the Red Death

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