What elements add to the harmony in Poe's story "The Masque of the Red Death"?the masque of the red death, poe,harmony,short story

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parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Is this a question from your teacher?  He or she is probably after the "unified effect" policy of Poe, a literary concept in which everything in a short story must add to one unique "feeling." Otherwise, it doesn't belong there since economy of style is critical.

True to the spirit of "woeful Poe," the end effect he was after was a feeling of horror and dread. In this particular short story, the author uses symbolism and appeal to the senses to achieve this. For example, the ebony clock ticking away represents time which passes and approaching destruction; the inebrity and gaiety of the courtiers, the frivolty and superficiality of existence; the costumes, illusion and deception. The pacing of the story itself is also a symbol, and the pauses are there to heighten the reader's anticipation of the final scene. The multicoloured chambers create an otherworldly atmosphere (though some critics see them as representing various stages of life). The brusque entrance of the Black Death itself and the hush which ensues is metaphorically similar to the Spectre with his scythe or a church bell tolling "your hour has come."

In all these ways, Poe builds the story up in a crescendo until the "cymbal smash" (my metaphor this time!) at the end. Death takes all without exception, and time has run out - even for a denouement.

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The Masque of the Red Death

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