Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Masque of the Red Death -By Edgar Allan Poe

A thousand of the favored joined their decadent prince behind high walls and welded gates. They engaged in bizarre celebrations while the Red Death raged outside--until one cryptic figure showed them the true horror in "The Masque of the Red Death".

For reasons I can't fully explain, I have always had a fascination with Edgar Allan Poe and his talent for telling such grand and morose stories. When I read his stories and poems, I find myself utterly amazed by his talent. I can't even begin to fathom how he came up with his works of fiction. Actually, he goes into such great and unique detail in his poems and stories that he almost makes me believe that he didn't fabricate them at all; which makes it seem all the more creepy, and I totally dig it!

I am also extremely intrigued with the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. Apparently, he was found on the streets of Baltimore, delirious and in bad shape. He was then taken to the hospital, where he was out of it most of the time, and therefore unable to give any explanation as to what happened to him and why he was found wearing someone else's clothes (weird, huh?). It is said that on the night before his death, he was heard repeatedly calling out the name "Reynolds". To this day no one knows who this "Reynolds" character was. No one knows what his exact cause of death was either, and Poe's death certificate and medical records were lost. I suppose the nature and manner of his death could all be chalked up to him being a drunk (apparently he had an alcohol issue) who's behavior became increasingly more erratic after he lost his wife; therefore allowing his addiction to possibly be the cause for his demise. But we shall never know. Either way, the mystery only adds to his allure.

So, with all of that being said, I will proceed with my review of The Masque of the Red Death: This short story is hands down one of my favorite Poe stories! I love the symbolism and imagery in this tale. Basically, the "Red Death" is a plague that is wreaking havoc on the town in the story and Prince Prospero decides to lock himself, and many of his friends, away in his home. He ultimately ends up hosting a very grand masquerade party and while him and his people are lavishly partying it up within the confines of his sanctuary, everyone else is dying a terrible death. There are seven uniquely decorated rooms in his house where the party-goers roam while the celebrations never cease; and in the last room (decorated in black and red) there is an ebony clock which has a very eery and distinct chime that marks the end of an hour. When the clock chimes, everyone inexplicably pauses and the music stops until the clock is quiet. When midnight arrives, everyone is confronted with a terrifying figure, the "Red Death". As you can imagine, some very unfortunate and gruesome things follow the appearance of this figure.

I feel like the main point in this story can really be up to anyone's interpretation. But for me, the message that is loud and clear is that you can't cheat death and that it will creep up on you (much like the "Red Death" figure) no matter what. The clock in the story is symbolic of our internal clocks that are ticking away. One thing in the story that I didn't entirely catch the meaning of initially was the seven rooms. Upon further research, I learned that some believe that the seven rooms that were featured in Poe's story are to be interpreted as the seven stages of life. To me, that makes sense after reading about the rooms in this tale. At any rate, no matter what Edgar was trying to prove, this story was an astonishing one that vividly plays out in my head every time I read it.


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