What is Poe's tone in the short story, "The Masque of the Red Death?" What effect did the ebony clock have on the guests every time it chimed?I am writing a paper about this story for my English...

What is Poe's tone in the short story, "The Masque of the Red Death?" What effect did the ebony clock have on the guests every time it chimed?

I am writing a paper about this story for my English class.

Expert Answers
favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The mood of the story is dark, indeed, but this is not quite the same thing as tone.  Mood refers more to how the story makes the reader feel, the emotional atmosphere created by the story.  Tone is harder to figure out because it refers to the way the author feels about the story's subject matter.  In order to ascertain a story's tone, we might consider whether or not it seems as though we are supposed to like or sympathize with a certain character.  Whether the answer is yes or no, that's a good place to start.  

It does not seem as though Poe wants us to like Prince Prospero.  The line, "But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious," seems to refer more to the way Prospero views himself than the way Poe views him.  This is because this ruler, instead of leading his people through a time of national crisis, calls to him his one thousand most fun and healthy friends, and then they run.  They flee to the safety of one of the prince's abbeys, a structure that he reinforces by welding the bolts of the gates shut so that no one can either enter or leave.  He's stocked the abbey with plenty of food and drink, and he's prepared it for a massive party: a party that rages on despite all of the people suffering horrible and bloody deaths outside the gates. However, despite his best efforts, the prince cannot keep death at bay, and he and his guests perish just the same. 

Therefore, I would describe the tone of this story as unsympathetic and even judgmental in regard to Prospero.  You might also describe Poe's feelings as knowing in the sense that the deaths of Prospero and his guests are inevitable, just as death is for all of us, no matter our station in life or our wealth.

chicagorilke23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death takes on a Gothic and dark natured tone throughout the short story. The effect of the ebony clock on the guests is one of fear. Each time the clock sounds; everyone is motionless and does not speak. The band does not play.

The ebony clock is also located in the seventh or black and red room. Oddly enough, when the clock does not sound, the rooms take on a beautiful glow and there is not a sense of fear among the guests. The guests feel like they are in dreamland. They are content.

The clock alerts people to their mortality. This notion goes along with the belief that each room represents a stage of life. It also explains why the black and red room is where the events at the end of the story take place.

Read the study guide:
The Masque of the Red Death

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question