Teaching Symbolism: Symbols in The Masque of the Red Death and Through the Tunnel.

Teaching Symbolism: Symbols in The Masque of the Red Death and Through the Tunnel.
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Symbols in Masque of the Red Death

If you and your students need review you may want to start with this symbolism lesson plan.

Poe wrote many excellent short stories rife with intriguing symbols. The following symbols in Masque of the Red Death prove illuminating.

  1. The Red Death represents death in general.
  2. The castle and all its barricades represent the futility of man against death.
  3. The clock symbolizes the approach of death.
  4. Prince Prospero’s rooms progressing east to west represents the stages of life.
  5. Prince Prospero’s name, symbolizing financial prosperity, along with the feudal symbols of a castle and the inability of peasants to enter the masquerade may also symbolize the death of the aristocracy and nobility of feudal times.

Other Poe short stories rich in symbolism include “The Fall of the House of Usher,"The Cask of Amontillado,” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.”

Through the Tunnel by Doris Lessing

A vacationing lad with an overly protective mother strives to swim through an under water tunnel to prove his manhood. It doesn’t even take a dirty mind to figure out the symbolism in Doris Lessing’s “Through the Tunnel.”

  1. A pasty English boy confronts “natives” swimming through a long tunnel. The natives symbolize the shedding of stuffiness.
  2. The tunnel is a moist hole that the boy, just reaching puberty, wishes to enter.
  3. He feels that penetrating the hole will make him a man.
  4. He sticks his head in several times to get a feel for things. The growth around the mouth of the cave tickles his face.
  5. He nearly passes out while going through the tunnel.
  6. He exits, breathing heavily, head covered in blood.

I would play stupid and look shocked when students come up with their own interpretation. On second thought, don’t mention symbolism at all.

Winter Dreams by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Themes and symbolism in “Winter Dreams” by F. Scott Fitzgerald are similar to those in The Great Gatsby. It is a story of a caddy who dreams of winning the love of the town’s most sought after woman, Judy. In order to do so, he must become wealthy.

  1. Judy symbolizes the American Dream, its tantalizing effects, and its corruptness.
  2. The title of the novel symbolizes the American Dream as well, winter being the season of death.
  3. The setting sun as the story ends symbolizes the end of Dexter’s dream and symbolically the American Dream.

The story’s themes and symbolism emphasizes many of the major points of modernism.


  • Thirteen Years Teaching Experience

This post is part of the series: More Short Story Suggestions

Teach the elements of literature by teaching great short stories.

  1. Short Stories for Teaching Symbolism
  2. Great Examples of Characterization: Short Stories for High School Students
  3. Short Stories for Teaching Foreshadowing in Literature
  4. Short Stories for Teaching Imagery
  5. Teaching Suspense in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat