Another E.A. poe Question!

Another question for Edgar Allen Poe scholars: I have long been fascinated by his short story, “The Masque of The Red Death”. I know that Prince Prospero attempts to shut out the misery of the world from his palace, but the red death (mortality) finds and entrance, and eventually kills the prince and his guests. What I am wondering about is the symbolism of the colored rooms-the prince had rooms of green, blue , orange, etc., each with windows, furnishings, drapes, carpets, etc. of the same color-except the black room (must have been scary) , where everything is black, except for the windows (blood red!). So what’s the symbolism here? Clearly the rooms represent something-just what is not clear to me! Any experts out there care to enlighten me?
PS: I think this kind of decorating scheme is interesting; I would love to have a totally green room-but where could I get green glass for the windows?

I don’t know about the symbolism. I’ll check back and see what people think about that. However, I do know colored glass (including green) is readily available. It’s called stained glass!

Green glass:

Heineken, Perrier, Rolling Rock

I’ve always thought it was stupid to analyse what the author had in mind when he was writing a story or song. Ever since I heard about all the rumors surrounding Don McClen’s “American Pie” and how he refuses to say what it’s “really” about, I’ve taken all these “in depth” analyses of books/songs with a grain of salt. MY own WAG is the imagery is supposed to be more poetic than symbolic, but I could be wrong.

Maybe the prince was just into the monochromatic look…
except for the red windows, cuz light wouldn’t filter thru? He uses red because the effect is absolutely fabulous? Who am I to second guess EAP?

I’m certainly not an expert on the subject but I seem to recall that the color scheme represented the progression of the day from dawn to night and therefore represented life from birth to death. Something like that. Haven’t read the story since I was in tenth grade but I think that was the analysis I remember hearing.

My English teacher last year claimed that the different colors were different stages of life or something like that (I don’t really pay attention in class).

The only colors I can remember her saying anything about though were green being birth or early life, purple being near end of life, and black being death.

Of course that could just be a load of crap and the color are just poetic.

I’m going to take a shot here, but I should warn you while I’m not on laudanum as Poe was suggested to be addicted to, I have taken some cold medicine which could make my response a bit confusing.

It is very common for the rooms to be preceived symbolicly, but there are some inconsistencies when this is done so let me put some accepted alternatives forward.

Looking at it from the environmental point of view, and a little away from the symbolic, it was very common for the Victorian to have specific rooms isolated to a single hue. Yes, I know Poe moves the short story back to the 15th/16th century, but he could have taken his lead from his own time period and merely extended it to an extreme.

It has been suggested by some Poe scholars (by the way, there are some excellent Poe sites on the Web, if I didn’t have this stupid cold I could recall them immediately, but I can’t seem to remember any just now)that because of Poe’s fondness for laudanum, all sensorial aspects became hightened (See: Roderick Usher in the House of Usher and the narrator in the Tell-Tale Heart. The single color rooms could have been a manifestation of that: the vivid colors as vivid images.

Others, once again from something of an environmental point of view, have suggested it was because he based the disease in the story on the Black Death. When one combines all of the colors together, it equals black, which in turn is the color of death. Thus, as Prospero pursues the mysterious masked stranger traveling through each of the rooms, he symbolicly accumulates each of the colors until finally ending in the final “blood” red room. He unmasks the guest and is confronted with death.

I’m not sure this makes sense to me at this point, but I hope it does at least a little bit to you.

I studied this 'way back in high school, then forgot it.
According to Stephen Peithman’s “The Annotated Tales of Edgar Allan Poe” (Avenel Books, 1981) , pp. 216-217 “Color Symbolism is a tricky business”. He notes that the colors progress from blue to black, paralleling the movement of the sun acros the sky, and thus the cycle of life. The seven rooms also recall the Seven Ages of Man.

He claims that Blue is the dawning of human life, the color of morning. It also represents Truth, Intellect, and the Void.

Purple is Blue plus Red, and is thus the Quickening of Life, as well as Power, Justice, and Temperance.

Green symbolizes Growth, Youth and Asiration, Fertility, Change, and Hope.

Orange s representative of midday. It is also the Harvest, Pride, and Ambition.

White is all colors in one. t is the color of winter and symbolizes approaching death.

Violet is colder than purple, suggesting approaching death. It is also Memory, Knowledge, Religious Devotion, Sorrow, and Mourning.

Black is the no-color of primordial darkness, of the void, of evil, and f death.
That’s an awful lot f symbolism, drawn from a not entirely clear basis. I’d take it with grain of salt, myself.