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

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What was a main theme in The Masque of the Red Death?

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One major theme of the text is that no one can escape death. Prince Prospero believes that he, with all of his wealth and resources, can elude death and live happily while his kingdom is decimated by disease. He calls a "thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retires to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys." Surrounded by its "strong and lofty wall" and its "gates of iron," this abbey sounds like a veritable fortress, indeed. All of the gates are welded shut so that nothing, the courtiers and the prince believe, can get in or out.

Their pride is tremendous: they believe that their distance from the city, their fortress, their furnaces and hammers, and their youth and health will actually succeed in keeping death at bay. "With such...

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The main theme in the Masque of The Red Death is “No man or woman can escape death.” It is human nature, of course, to attempt to escape death, and many of us in the modern world resort to extreme measures to postpone entering the “seventh room” as long as possible.

Death, as the main theme, represents itself in Poe’s work in many ways. For example, the rooms of the palace, lined up in a series, allegorically represent the stages of life. Poe makes it a point to arrange the rooms running from east to west. This progression is symbolically significant because it represents the life cycle of a day: the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, with night symbolizing death.

Another example is the seventh room. Poe crafts the last, black room as the ominous endpoint, the room the guests fear just as they fear death. The clock that presides over that room also reminds the guests of death’s final judgment. The hourly ringing of the bells is a reminder of the passing of time, inexorable and ultimately personal.

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