What effect does the striking of the clock have on the revelers in "The Masque of the Red Death"? 

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mattbuckley | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Masque of the Red Death" is packed full of deep symbolism. It is in the rooms decorated of different colors and the actions of the Prince and his guests. However, one of the most meaningful symbols is the clock. When analyzing the reactions of the guests to this symbol you begin to understand the true meaning of the clocks existence in the story. The revelers reaction consists of immediate arrest of all actions. They stop everything they are doing. The orchestra stops playing and "the waltzers perforce ceased their evolutions; and their was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company; and, while the chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows". This reaction to the clock is due to the what the clock represents. A clock is an instrument of time and these guests have gather essentially in an attempt to hide from the horrifying times they are living in. They are hiding from their own mortality. This clock, when it chimes with its "brazen lungs" reminds them all that they are mortal and that time is still passing. Every time the clock chimes it tells them that they are one hour closer to their eventual demise.

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