The Masque of the Red Death Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

The Masque of the Red Death book cover
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What are the symbols in "The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe?

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allyson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It is also believed that the seven rooms of seven colors may represent the seven deadly sins, which are: sloth (laziness), lust, gluttony (eating too much), avarice (greed), pride, anger, and covetousness (taking what does not belong to you). Since the Prince was a selfish and arrogant man, it could be said that he committed all of the above, which would certainly allow an explanation of the seven rooms representing each sin.

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In addition to the excellent answer above, I would point out the symbolism of the name "Prospero," a take, of course, on the word "prosperous." However, (as Rene mentioned) none is immune from death, no matter how wealthy he or she may be.

Another symbol is the clock, which is so prominent in black room (the color black being a synomym for death) and probably is symbolic of the ticking away of life, from the second we are born.

Further Reading:

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renelane eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The red death is symbolic for death (of course).  No matter how luxurious the house, how nice our clothes, no one escapes death.The rooms in the palace, lined up in a series, symbolize the stages of life. The rooms run east to west, and the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. This symbolizes sun as life, and night as death.

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michlovin34 | Student

So I guess I can see how the rooms could possibly represent the 7 deadly sins.. But I wasn't aware that death(the 7th and last room) was a sin? Im sticking with stages of life..  

abdalrhmanaa | Student

and after all that good answers i think my answer whouldnt add but whats about the nme ( prosperu ) it self the name mens unfortunate and that foreshadows the end of the story , the story is full of symbols such as the 7 chumbers or rooms which represents many things such as : the stages of life ,  The colors of the rooms signify the following Blue – Birth, Purple - Royalty, Power, Green - Growth and Life, Orange - Destruction or Fire, White– Purity, Violet - Knowledge and Memory, and Black - Death.

the ( strange man ) which represented the red death passed by the seven rooms which prince prosperu colored by the above colors which represented many good things that were as prosperu thoght enough to protect him from death but here comes the theme of the story which sais that nothing can prevent from death even if that things are the best things in the warld .

zee96 | Student

The Clock

The Red Death

The Rooms

mary4768 | Student

The Red Death is symbolic of all death and of the morality of all humans even Prince Prospero.

johndm | Student

Red = Blood = Leukemia = Death

Female human blood weighs 66.15 pounds a cubic foot (compared to male blood at 66.16)

And 66.15 divided by 0.75 = 882

And 882 = 126 x 7

And 126 = a burning lamp

And 126 = 109 fire + 17 a lamp

And the Church (in the Book of Rev. 1:12) is thus 882

Whereas the Menorah = 126 x 6 + 279 (109 + 170) = 1,035

Then central lamp is a feeder lamp for the other six lamps.

And the Menorah at 1,035 less 882 the Church = 153 a reference for the sons of God.

So arithmetic can reveal an idea, in that "Number Form Follows Measurement Function" but some will its numerology as is 2 + 2 = 4

cupiccake | Student

The Clock is a big one too!

pianoprodigy123 | Student

the room colors stand for the 7 deadly sins.

lala94 | Student

I know im really late on answering this, but you know for anyone in the future needing help, im willing to help, I recently red this story and i can agree with the fact that each room represents both ideas of life and death and the seven deadly sins. Throughout life most people will commit these sins... and in the end death will take you, just like a clock (the big ebony one) One day the battery will die just like us, unexpectedly, and nobody can stop it not even Prince Prospero

flyby | Student

Three of the major symbols in Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" are definitely the clock, rooms, and the sun. The rooms are percieved as two things, the different stages of life, blue being birth, black being death, and the seven deadly sins as previously mentioned. The sun goes into accordance with the rooms, as it rises east to west, and the rooms were built running east to west, so the sun represents life, and at the end, night represents death. When the clock rang, everyone would stop and listen to it, as if it were their death approaching them. The clock interupted all the festivities just as the thought of dying provoked everyone. Also, the clock stopped ticking when the last person fell dead, as also previously mentioned.

chayes57 | Student

Just throwing this out there but the clock can also represent life. The ticks of the clock represent the beating heart of life. Plus the clock is counting down towards death which is exactly what life does

mcdonalds | Student

the Red Death is tuberculosis, Edgar had two (or three) women in his life die of Tuberculosis, its called the red death because people with tuberculosis coughed up a lot of blood.  Also i thought the Chiming of the clock represented the coughing fits that a person with tuberculosis would endure, because with each hour, the chiming got longer, and when ever the clock chimed the whole room got silent like someone would if u were in the middle of a conversation with someone then they started coughing heavily  

buler | Student

there are many symbols the seven rooms indicate possibly the seven deadly sins such as the colors correspond with the seven deadly sins. everybody at the party is commiting one of the ultimate sins in which they leave everybody outside the castle to die. the ebony clock represents time and when it would strike it would symbolize how much time has gone by. the red death symbolizes death which even though they were hidden away nobody can escape death. prince prospero represents well prosperity. the tripods of fire represent life in which when everybody at the party dies the embers go out.

alefavor | Student

the castle could be a symbol of hope because there away from everyone outside it (the people outside had the disease) so in a way you could say that the castle is hope for life. Another symbol would be the clock its like a countdown for when everyones going to die, thats probualy why they all stoped when they heard it strike and then go on when it stoped. the last room on the west side symbolized death and if you have common sience then you would say it symbolized the red death because when you went in to it , it looked like you had the disease they all wanted to get away from.

penishead | Student

bmx dont listen to this bimbo

the rooms represent the 7 deadly sins

you notice how each room has a color that go with the colors of the seven deadly sins? and in the end when the prince is killed in the black room (death room) by the clock it represents the time of life and how it can end (the torch going out)

so there

cantcountonanything | Student

I think that the Red Death represents how no matter how wealthy or poor you were, it killed you. Everyone was the same in death, it did not choose who would die and who wouldn't. Red represents the blood that was shed. Everyone's blood is red, therefore everyone is equal.

ashleemac | Student

I think that the symbols of the rooms mean the seven deadly sins and also the seven stages of life starting with birth and of course ending with death.

The other symbols of in this story i don't quite understand. im actually writing an essay on this short story so any help would be helpful.

corpseyjones | Student

The clock can also symbolize forces that are beyond our control, just like those at the masquerade could not control when death would come to them despite their attempt to hide from it. The Masquerade can also symbolize the dance of life.

book-worm8 | Student

The large clock in the black room symbolizes the partygoers and the Prince running out of time. Also, the red windowpane symbolizes the red death. I know my answer is a late but I just thought I should throw that in there.

nycguy | Student

Rather than look for specific meanings to specific elements portrayed in the story (black chamber, tripod, etc.) one must first consider who Poe is and when he was writing.  Poe, often and misfit in life, typifies the ideal of the Romantic artist, struggling against a world that fails to understand him, yet trapped, forever, seeking its approval.  Forced to turn inward for inspiration, material and content, the Romantic Artist uncovers much which he himself could not understand, that mysterious and dark place within the soul.  Here, the image of the "Doppelganger" (double) becomes prominent as it is in much of Romantic literature (see, William Willson), as an example. 
The Romantic Artist, and Poe is the quintessential one, struggles to deal with the myriad of bizarre, grotesque and seemingly random images that come to conscioussness when contemplating the "Self."  Later, Freud would call it the "Id" the place in all humans, left over from our own primordial past, when lust, and the struggle to live ruled our lives, unchecked. 
Observe the story from this light and you will find many different and valid interpretations.  

Mine: Poe senses intuitively, the downfall of civilization, his, our own, which I believe we are witnessing even more drammatically and clearly today.   Look around you: learning is at an all-time low, respect for tradition is non-existent, indeed, many of the trappings that held society together for centuries are mocked and derided.  
Poe's "Red Death," is simply that, the encroaching fall of High Western Civilization from we we all (as the Prince) try vainly to hide from and sometimes, absurdly, attempt to deny.

audreylynn218 | Student

The Red Death not only symbolizes death...but specifically tuberculosis..this disease affected many people that Poe loved dearly, and he watched them die.  This is why the Red Death kills in a matter of half an hour...because he felt like the time spent with the suffering people was too short.  The Prince Prospero also is a symbol.  His name and everything about him is ironic...or a contradictoin.  He is described as prosperous and sagacious...but he is in fact killed by the red Death and is not very intelligent  because he attempted to take on the Red Death single handedly.  Prince Propero's rather eccentric taste in furnishing shows his insanity and they are symbols.  Six of the seven rooms are all furnished in the same color with stained glass windows of the same color.  Blue represents the insanity of all the guest and Prince Prospero.  Purple represents nobility.  Green represents naiivitay and greed.  They are all naiive in believing they can cheat death by hiding behind iron bars and escape death.  The white represents childlike innocence...becuase they have a juvenille mentality because they are trying to escape the inevitable.  orange represents the energy of the atmosphere between clock chimes.  The violet represents the dusk..or closing of thier lives...the black room is the only one with the blood red windows...this room represents death.  THe clock represents the passing of time....any suggestions please emial me!

ddog | Student

I would like to elaborate on the clock answer.  Every hour when the clock would chime, the people would stop and listen.  the clock also stopped ticking when the last person died.  It was as if the clock represented the countdown to death, and the people knew it.  Also, the black room had red windows, which cased red light to shine into the room.  Everyone was afraid to enter the room because the red light gave the appearance of having the disease.

etihel | Student

As said before "the seven rooms represent the seven stages in life," but for people that do not know Blue represent birth or new life in the story the 1st room is a light blue and the last is black.Black represent eternal night mean death. As the prince goes after the mummer he is passing his seven stages of life.

blazn0azn | Student

Also, the grand gated wall around Prospero's fortress that is introduced early in the story symbolizes the social barrier between poor and rich. It's a fitting symbol, seeing how the story takes place during the ages when feudalsim dominated as an economic method.