illustration of a clockface wearing a mask and ticking closer to midnight

The Masque of the Red Death

by Edgar Allan Poe

Start Free Trial

Explain the fifth paragraph in "The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe.

Quick answer:

The Fifth Paragraph of The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe is about the clock and how it makes people stop for a moment when it strikes the hour. It also represents death.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What a creative genius Edgar Allan Poe was in his spine tingling stories!  He thought of every detail that might make the reader more mystified and horrified as he read Poe’s story: “The Masque of the Red Death.”

Those seven rooms that the Prince had prepared for his...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

guests were impressive.  Each room had its own special color and decorations. The crowd mingled through each of the rooms with laughing and gaiety.

The happiness stopped when the revelers came to the seventh room which apparently was so scary that nobody stayed in it long. Everything was black except for the windows which were painted red.  With the lighting in the room, everyone looked like they were covered in blood.

Adding to the foreboding atmosphere of the room was the ebony pendulum clock that tolled the hour with a deep chime that echoed through the winding hallways and unnerved all the guests.

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…

The clock had a peculiar effect on the party.  When the hour came, the clock’s  brass workings chimed the hour with a clear, loud, deep, and extraordinary musical chime but also with an extremely peculiar sound. When it began to chime, everything stopped—the dancing, the orchestra, the talking. 

The impact of the clock was tremendous.  Those who were old aged even more.  The people who were laughing became pale; and confusion reigned over everyone. 

When the clock stopped chiming the hour, then the group returned to doing whatever they were doing before.  The musicians looked at each other and seemed nervous because they had no idea what had happened or why they had stopped playing.  All the people looked nervous and confused for a moment.

Every person said to himself: when the chiming starts again, that he would not stop what he was doing. Yet, when the clock chimes again the same thing happens to everyone again. 

Why did the author include the clock as part of the story? The clock represents the passing of time in a man’s life.  Man’s journey on earth is brief and passes so rapidly.  It seems that when the clock chimes, time and man are struck and stopped for the passing of time represented by the clock.

The placement of the clock in the seventh room symbolizes the last part of a person’s life: death. The blackness of the clock in conjunction with man's quick journey through life foreshadows the midnight hour when the Red Death comes to claim his victims.  Everyone dies in contrast to when they stopped as the clock struck the hour.   

Approved by eNotes Editorial