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Dichotomy of Colors in Poe’s The Masque (Mask) of the Red Death

Dichotomy of Colors in The Masque of Red Death

In “The Masque of Red Death,” Poe uses aural, visual, and kinetic images to create the effect of fear in a joyful masque. Poe starts off with a description of the “Red Death.” He gives gory detail of how it seals one’s fate with Blood. He tells of pain, horror and bleeding. Moreover, the pestilence kills quickly and alienates the sick. This is Poe’s image of death. He only bothers to tell it’s symptoms. He doesn’t go into the fear present in the lives of people with the disease. He describes the scene of redness and blood streaming from the pores, the face. His description of the afflicted’s pain also adds to the graphically explicit exposé of the red death disease. The red death image is morbid and has a modern day counterpart that aids Poe in creating a wonderfully horrific scene. Many of the symptoms mentioned in Poe’s red death fit the modern day Ebola. Both diseases are of unknown origin and attack quickly causing massive bleeding. Just as Ebola turned the society in Africa upside down, Red Death encourages desperate Prospero to put up iron gates to protect himself. This disease is meant to cause fear in the people. Referring to Red Death, Poe draws comparisons to an Avatar, a god sent image. It implies a god given invincibility to Red Death and dooms the victim to alienation from society and a painful death. Just looking at the description — imagining the scene — creates that fear and horror.

In contrast to the morbid images associated with red death, Poe describes a group of happy masqueraders. The central figure among the joyous people is Prince Prospero who, as suggested by his name, is prosperous and has tons of entertainment. He is not worried because his wh…

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… go. That fear, manifested as Red Death, “stood erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock …” and all fall in death with his presence. Even the clock “went out with that of the last of the gay.”

Poe paints a dichotomy of bright, varied, and interesting colors contrasting with dark black. These colors blend, even though one may fight and try to protect itself against the other. Using aural as well as visual images, Poe presents to the reader the clock, a symbol for time, which lurks as an enemy waiting to unleash an inevitable horror on the masses. With this inevitable and explosive mixing, Poe paints a picture of happiness, gaiety, and liveliness, that decays into a dark abyss of the last, black apartment.

Works Cited

Poe, Edgar Allen. “The Mask of the Red Death.” The Works of Edgar Allen Poe. Ann Arbor, MI: State Street Press. 482-487.

The Self and Society in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

The Self and Society in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

For the speaker of Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the time that he takes to stop and view the woods is unusual; his duties and responsibilities don’t allow for him to linger. Even so, the speaker finds great pleasure in this unexpected pause in his journey. The binary oppositions present in the poem indicate that, regardless of his responsibilities, the speaker would like to remain in the woods and take in the scene set before him. For it is here in the woods that the speaker feels a sense of individualism; it offers an escape from the communal responsibilities with which he is laden. However, while the “natural” side of the oppositions within the poem seem to be privileged, the speaker finally chooses to lay them aside and carry out his duties.

The first binary opposition in the poem involves the juxtaposition of the woods and the village. The speaker recognizes that the owner of the woods lives in the village. But the speaker suggests that the owner “will not see me stopping here” because of the owner’s responsibilities in the village (3). Apparently no one else is close by either. Clearly, the woods are a place of pleasurable solitude. As they fill with snow, the woods become a place of peace as well. The village, on the other hand, is not filled with snow, but with people and houses. Though it remains unseen in the poem, it is still a presence that contrasts with the woods as a scene of duty and obligation. Knowing what the village holds, the speaker wishes to remain in the woods.

The speaker, however, obviously is not used to straying from his responsibilities. The action of the speaker’s horse proves this. As the spe…

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…scene in the woods. In any case, the speaker finds the woods to be a much more pleasurable experience than the demands of the village. Here in the woods he experiences a sense of peace and an individualistic self-fulfillment lacking in the village. However, although his desire to remain in such an environment is strong, his sense of duty and obligation overcomes him. Regardless of what he personally wants, the speaker decides to fulfill his responsibilities and travel those miles before he sleeps. Thus, in the end the privileging of the basic binary opposition within the poem between woods and village, self and society, seems to change. In the judgment of the speaker’s action at least, duty calls.

Works Cited

Frost, Robert. “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.” 1923. A Pocketful of Poems. Ed. David Madden.Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace, 1996. 39.

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