The Masque of the Red Death Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

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In "The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe, analyze how Poe uses the clock as a symbol in the allegory, and please support with evidence.

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The ebony clock in Poe's classic short story symbolically represents mortality and the transient nature of human life, which Prince Prospero and his revelers desperately attempt to prolong while celebrating in his castellated abbey. The ominous ebony clock is located in the seventh room, which is the most western chamber of the prince's imperial suite. The location of the clock is significant and corresponds to its symbolic relevance. The western orientation of the room corresponds to the sun setting in the west, which symbolically represents death in accordance with the interpretation of the sun's path. The fact that it is located in the seventh chamber also corresponds to death and is fittingly the room where everyone dies once the Red Death personified enters the imperial suite. The ebony clock's association with mortality, the transience of human life, and death is suggested by the revelers' reaction to the sound of its bells ringing every hour. Poe writes,

...it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation. (2)

This "disconcert and tremulousness" indicates that the guests are reminded of their own mortality by recognizing that their time on earth is quickly passing whenever they hear the sound of the clock striking. After the Red Death personified enters the suite, Prince Prospero and all of his guests die in the seventh chamber as the ebony clock strikes twelve. The symbolic nature of the ebony clock is once again emphasized when Poe writes,

And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. (5)

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We know that the clock was located in the red room, and that its clang was neverending. It was imposing, and it could be seen by everyone. This is a grim reminder that time goes on, and our minutes keep passing by.

It was in this apartment, also, that there stood against ... the western wall, a gigantic clock of ebony. Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang…

We also can determine from the depiction of the clock is that its ebony color reminds us of a funeral, as if the clock was ready for one since, after all, the way Poe breaks down time not as a collective abstract, but breaks it down into seconds, which run out quicker, is the manner in which it is telling us how brief life also is.

…and then, after the lapse of sixty minutes, (which embrace ... three thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time that flies,) there came yet another chiming of the clock

 

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