When the deadly spectre appears in the last room, making a mockery of disguise as he is "shrouded in...the habiliments of the grave" and "imitative of the Red Death," he moves through every chamber, symbolic of the seven eras of history and the seven stages of man, "like a thief in the night" and from every one of the revelers he steals life. Also symbolic, the ebony clock, which represents time, stops ticking with the death of the last guest.
In the end, all the preparations, all the fortifications, all the bravado against Death, symbolized by the last guest, are for naught. For, never has any man made been able to defy or deter Death, that solemn thief who steals from all men. With marvelous and macabre artistry, Edgar Allan Poe fashions this eternal truth into a melodramatic Gothic tale of suspense, portents, preternatural events (the appearance of the Red Death), overwrought emotion, and what is termed the "metonymy of gloom and horror" with the "brazen lungs" of the clock that gives terrified pause to each of the guests on the hour as the "giddiest grew pale" and the "sedate pass their hands over their brows" as they are reminded of the temporal nature of life.