The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

The Masque of the Red Death book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What does the masked figure represent in "The Masque of the Red Death"?

Expert Answers info

Jennings Williamson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write6,737 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

In one sense, the masked figure who crashes Prince Prospero's party is representative of the disease -- called the Red Death -- that ravages the kingdom.  The disease is referred to as the Red Death because it is characterized by the hideous quantities of blood that seem to pour out of a person when they have contracted it.  The narrator says of the disease, "Blood was its Avatar and its seal -- the redness and the horror of blood" because its victims would literally bleed from all their pores before they died.  The masked figure comes, having "assume[d] the type of the Red Death."  His clothes are "dabbled in blood -- and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror."  He is the disease, personified.

However, the masked figure is more than just the disease.  He can be interpreted as a symbol of death, in general, too.  His mask looks like the face of "a stiffened corpse," and he is first seen by Prince Prospero as he stalks through the seventh room of black and red.  This is the only room to be characterized by two colors, and so they both must be significant.  Just as red is associated here, with the fatal disease, so black is often symbolic of death in general.  Likewise, clocks are often symbolic of mortality and death, and so the ebony clock in this room provides another clue that anything associated with the room is likewise connected to death.  It is not the Red Death, the disease, that holds "illimitable dominion over all" but rather death in general.  No human, no matter their status, can escape death, though the prince clearly thought that he could.  Thus, the masked figure represents both the bloody disease as well as death, generally speaking.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

M.P. Ossa, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Lecturer, ESL/TEFL Instructor

bookM.A. from Chapman University


calendarEducator since 2008

write5,667 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Business

It has a threefold meaning:

First, it represents the red death itself, infiltrating itself in the...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 640 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Doug Stuva eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write1,751 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Kristy Wooten eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write1,183 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

check Approved by eNotes Editorial


christina0949 | Student

what is the ''red death''?

 

check Approved by eNotes Editorial
christina0949 | Student

from the title, what can you infer about the masked firgure?

check Approved by eNotes Editorial