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The Masque of Red Death Hypertext
Andrew Kokanoutranon

The Masque of Red Death

4. Find the following symbols and state the possible meaning of each: Prospero, the clock, east and west, the abbey, room colors.

 

Prospero: Prospero's name is an obvious allusion to the word Prosperity or Prosperous: the condition of being successful or thriving; especially: economic well-being. While Prospero is thriving at the beginning of the story, Poe creates irony when the Red Death is able to sneak into the party and kill the "most prosperous" man in the kingdom. Although Prospero thinks he is wealthy enough to escape death, he isn't.

 

The ebony clock: The clock symbolizes the passage of time, the onset of death, and the life of the party goers (revellers). Poe builds the symbol by giving details on how the party stops and the partiers get nervous every time they hear the clock chime, and he finishes the meaning of the symbol when he states "And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay." The clock stops when life stops.

 

East and west: The east represents birth and the west represents death. The sun rises from the east to start the day and it sets in the west to start night, Poe uses the motion of the sun to characterize life and death.

 

The abbey: The abbey represents a “safe haven”. Prospero and his friends believe that they would be safe from the red death in the abbey, where they are also closer to God. They seem to believe that they could escape death; Prospero committed a sin of pride – thinking that he is better than death and that he can escape its wrath.

 

Room color: Each of the rooms represents one of the seven deadly sins. The rooms go in order from least sinful to most sinful. The blue room represents sloth, the purple – gluttony, the green – greed, the orange – lust, the white – envy, the violet – wrath, and the black – pride. The rooms also represent the cycle of life. The blue room being the birth of life also stands for daybreak. The purple room is a person’s childhood, the green being the youth, the orange being maturity, the white being old age adults, violet being the twilight of a person’s life, and the black being death.

 

5. Identify the irony of the following details:

 

a. Prospero locks himself in an abbey

The abbey is a monastery where monks lived in peace and calmness. They live a selfless life and pray for forgiveness, but Prospero locks himself in an abbey only to pervert salvation and selflessness. He lacks in living in peace, instead he wastes food, wine and     other necessities by throwing a party. He later suffers the consequences of his sins.  

 

b. The narrator's description of Prospero as "happy and dauntless and sagacious"

Prospero’s description of being happy, dauntless, and sagacious is in fact the total opposite of his real portrayal. Instead of being a brave and fearless man, he is a coward and goes into hiding. He stays in his abbey while his people are suffering from poverty and the plague.

 

c. Prospero's name

Prospero's name is an obvious allusion to the word Prosperity or Prosperous: the condition of being successful or thriving; especially: economic well-being. While Prospero is thriving at the beginning of the story, Poe creates irony when the Red Death is able to sneak into the party and kill the "most prosperous" man in the kingdom.   Although Prospero thinks he is wealthy enough to escape death, he isn't.

 

 

6. Characterization: Offer descriptive adjectives for Prospero and Prospero's hale and light-hearted friends

 

Prospero is greedy, lazy, lustful, selfish, and full of envy and pride. He lives in a life of luxury while his people suffer. Prospero’s greediness and lustfulness destroys him and his friends, he envies the power of death. He thinks that he can cheat death and be immortal but later on he dies of the red death right in his own secluded palace.

 

Prospero’s friends and knights are just freeloaders. They only pretend to like Prospero to escape the red death too. They are also cowards much like Prospero, they try to cheat death with him and gets caught in the act then suffer from the red death just as everyone outside the secluded palace did.

 

Plot:

 

Exposition: Poe uses the beginning of the story to offer important background information; Prospero's kingdom is under attack from the Red Death, and Prospero locks his friends and himself into his castle to escape the plague.

 

Inciting Incident: Prospero's decision to hold a masquerade ball starts the main conflict between he and the Red Death in motion.

 

Rising Action: The description of the rooms, the chiming of the clocks, and details of the party increase the tone of anxiety and fear in the story. The conflict intensifies when the mummer (mummy) dressed as the Red Death appears and angers Prospero. Prospero's decision to chase him when the other knights in the castle back away from the unexpected guest in fear leads to the climax.

 

Climax: Prospero has reached the point of no return when he falls dead while attempting to kill the mummy.

 

Falling Action: The knights must react to Prospero's death in the climax of of the story and they pull the sheet off the mummy only to find nothing there. They all fall dead.

 

Resolution: With all the knights and Prince Prospero dead, the conflict is resolved as the Red Death takes complete control of the kingdom.