The Masque of the Red Death
by Edgar Allan Poe
The Masque of the Red Death Versions of Reality Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Paragraph)
Here the case was very different; as might have been expected from the duke's love of the bizarre. The apartments were so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn a novel effect. (4)
As Poe launches into a description of the suite that Prospero has designed, the world of the story contracts and we become fully immersed in Prospero's world. Think about it: we've now moved from a focus on Prospero's kingdom (the opening paragraph), to the abbey he designed (the second paragraph), and now to a single set of rooms within the abbey. The story starts to coincide with the products of Prospero's own imagination. And because Prospero is so odd, the story starts to feel more off-balance, surreal, and dreamlike. The suite, for example, is literally off-balance: it's out of alignment, with sharp and irregular turns.
These windows were of stained glass whose color varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened. That at the eastern extremity was hung, for example, in blue --and vividly blue were its windows. (4)
Prospero's world (the suite) – which is now the world of the story – takes on more detail, and another level of strangeness. The rooms are color-coded, in brilliant, solid hues. Doesn't that feel deeply surreal? That the windows are made of something so fine as stained glass is another detail that adds to our sense that Prospero is a meticulous artist.
The second chamber was purple in its ornaments and tapestries, and here the panes were purple. 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. The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries…(4)
Prospero's design gets more intricate still. The color progression of the rooms seems to suggest a symbolic meaning, especially since the last room, the black room, appears so obviously to represent death. It's often been suggested that the progression of colors represents the stages of human life. (See "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" for more on this.) The symbolic suggestiveness adds even more to the feeling that this is a dream world.