16 October 2010


Locus Focus: Take Twenty-Three!

One problem with not having my own PC and having to draft my posts in longhand before going to an Internet cafe and typing them up, is that I make some awful editorial errors. For instance, last week's Locus Focus was actually supposed to be this week's--and yes, the order matters. The locus I finally feature today is a more natural follow-up to the first Scary Setting of the month, while the locus of last Saturday is a more logical progression from this one.

So what lies between Neal Shusterman's Full Tilt and Dante's Inferno? Read on . . .

The Imperial Suite
The Masque of the Red Death
by Edgar Allan Poe

It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade. But first let me tell of the rooms in which it was held. There were seven--an imperial suite . . . 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. To the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor which pursued the windings of the suite. These windows were of stained glass whose colour varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which opened. That at the eastern extremity was hung, for example, in blue--and vividly blue were its windows. . . But in [the black chamber], the colour of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet--a deep blood colour.

Edgar Allan Poe isn't my favourite Horror writer, but here he had me at seven.

The seven apartments of Prince Prospero's masquerade are obviously and deeply symbolic. Critic Julian Symons suggests the seven ages of man or the seven days of the week as possible readings. Of course, I go for the seven deadly sins . . . but that's just me being predictable.

(It's certainly easy to imagine Prince Prospero committing them all as he holes up in his palace, letting others fiddle for him while the city around him figuratively burns up with plague. Pride is obvious; lust and gluttony are easy read between the lines; we actually see his rage in the one action scene we get; and so on . . . It's not as strong a reading as the other two, however, which are supported by the fact that one can really see only one chamber at a time.)

I like the way this setting is related to the evil amusement park of Full Tilt: both suggest progression. These are settings the characters are supposed to pass through--except that there doesn't seem to be anywhere to go once you've reached the seventh chamber, all black save for the blood-red windows. But Horror loves a good irony, and it won't let this final apartment be the end of the line.

So at the close of one night of revelry--which the guests can mark only because of a "gigantic clock of ebony" in the last room--these chambers that seem so perfectly sealed off from the world and from the implications of life, are visited by the most gruesomely possible reminder of the guests' mortality.

Who could forget the final line of this macabre sketch . . .

And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

This Week's Other Locus Focus:

J.R.R. Tolkien's Morgul Vale @ Spike Is Best

Image Source: The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe


Sullivan McPig said...

Well, I must say the 7 sins seem more logical than the 7 ages of man or 7 days of the week.

Haven't read this Poe story yet, will have to look it up.

Did you get my email btw? Downsiders arrived! Yay :-)

dylan said...


(allEn is Ginsberg. allAn is Poe.)

IntrovertedJen said...

I haven't read Poe in years, but I just read "The Pit and The Pendulum" last week. The ending was a bit contrived, but the man could describe a spooky setting. I know I've read The Masque of the Red Death, but I remember very little about it. Maybe I'll dig it out and give it a whirl later today.

Enbrethiliel said...


Sully: Both readings have their justifications, each one pretty good. What I like about the time-related ones is that they perfectly fit the design of the chambers.

It's one of Poe's shorter ones and is much easier to read than, say, The Fall of the House of Usher, in which Poe seemed to want his prose to reflect one character's advanced state of mental illness.

Yes, I did get your message, but I've been so hassled lately (as you can see from my posting) that I wasn't able to reply. I'm so sorry about that--and so happy that you got your prize at last!

Dylan: I always end up misspelling the most obvious words, don't I? =S I don't even have an excuse for Allan/Allen because I've owned a copy of Poe's short stories for about fifteen years and could look at his name on the cover whenever I wanted!

It's fixed now, at least. And your distinction between Poe and Ginsberg will help in the future. Thanks! =)

Jen: If The Pit and the Pendulum is in my short story collection, I'll try to read it soon, too. I might have been an English Lit major, but my university gave hardly any attention to American Literature; so my exposure to Poe has been very minimal.

Birdie said...

Hi Enbrethiliel!
I'm so sorry I missed Locus Focus this week; I've had a house guest and have spent very little time online.
Masque of the Red Death is a great choice. My thoughts for this weekend were either Milton's Pandaemonium or House of Usher. I do really love Masque of the Red Death, though. Have you seen the terrible Roger Corbin version with Vincent Price? Ultimate b-movie; I love it.

Sully--7 days of the week sort of make sense based on the planetary system known at the time of naming days (based on the Roman system. The Roman names were "dies" + "Roman name of God(des)" so Thursday was 'dies Iovis'). Many European countries have similar naming systems, French for example
Weekday - French - God(des) - Planet
Monday - Lundi - Luna - Moon
Tuesday - Mardi - Mars - Mars
Wednesday - Mercredi - Mercury - Murcury
Thursday - Jeudi - Jove - Jupiter
Friday - Vendredi - Venus - Venus
Saturday - Samedi - Saturn - Saturn
Sunday - Sol - Dimanche - Sun

Enbrethiliel said...


That's all right, Birdie! =) I did miss you, though.

I haven't seen the Roger Corbin film yet, but you had me at "ultimate B-movie"! =P

And thanks for sharing that tidbit about the planetary systems, which I did know about, thanks to my study of Dante, but which totally slipped my mind when it came to Poe. (I hope my professors never hear of this slip!) Now that you bring it up, the last chamber with the black colours and ebony clock is very Saturnine, which fits the concept of Saturn as a sort of bringer of death. You can't escape your fate, etc.