Mask Of The Red Death

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Edgar Allan Poe uses an abundance of colors to create symbolism in his short story entitled The Mask of the Red Death. Throughout the story Poe sets the mood and foreshadows the story's grim conclusion all by the brilliant symbolism that colors possess. This symbolism draws one event into another creating a chain of telegraphed events that spell disaster from the story's first few lines.

The first hint of color featured in the story is red. Through Poe's brilliant use of descriptive language we come to see that red, which historically symbolizes life, will instead represent the color of death in this story. The reader comes to know that the "Red Death" has a negative connotation in the line that reads, "There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, and there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the 'Red Death'."

(41) In this line Poe draws a connection between the "Red Death" and negativity by stating to the reader all of the positive things occurring within the castle walls and sullying it with the mention of the "Red Death." Instantly, the reader comes to the conclusion that the color red will signify anarchy, desperation, and most likely death.

From this moment on Poe creates a rising action by using the rooms of the castle and their colors as a timeline of events. This timeline of sorts begins with the room containing blue ornaments and windows. One can equate blue with water, which is symbolic of birth. With that said the reader could again begin to see that Poe is using symbolism to strengthen his plot. The description of the rooms continues as Poe describes the color purple. Purple is usually associated with royalty and it is derived from the Latin word purpura meaning of blood. An association between purple and the prince can be developed here because purple could represent the prince's class standing, especially since the purple room immediately follows the blue or birth room.

After these first two rooms are described a pattern is shaped. The reader soon comes to find out that Poe is not creating just any timeline, yet he is creating a carbon copy of Prince Prospero's life. The pattern is continued four more times. "The third was green throughout, and so were the casements. The fourth was furnished and lighted with orange --the fifth with white --the sixth with violet." (41)