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

What words does Edgar Allan Poe use to describe the guests at the party in "The Masque of the Red Death"?

Poe describes the guests at the party as grotesque "arabesque figures" and their costumes as "unsuited limbs." They are also described as "dreams," "stalk[ing] around" the rooms. The more thoughtful guests become meditative upon hearing the clock chiming.

Expert Answers

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

The narrator describes them as "arabesque figures with unsuited limbs," even describing the party guests as "dreams" that "stalk" around the rooms. They are dressed in costumes for the masquerade ball. They "writhe" in and out of all the rooms and become "stiff-frozen" where they stand whenever the great ebony...

See
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

The narrator describes them as "arabesque figures with unsuited limbs," even describing the party guests as "dreams" that "stalk" around the rooms. They are dressed in costumes for the masquerade ball. They "writhe" in and out of all the rooms and become "stiff-frozen" where they stand whenever the great ebony clock in the seventh and final room, painted in black and blood red, chimes the hour. The guests tend to crowd in the other six rooms, avoiding the last one with the clock, and the more "thoughtful among those who revelled" are made meditative as the chimes strike for longer and longer amounts of time as the hour increases. Later, when the masked figure dressed as the Red Death appears,

there arose at length from the whole company a buzz, or murmur, expressive of disapprobation and surprise—then, finally, of terror, of horror, and of disgust.

The guests grow "pale" as everyone stops to behold the figure. Although there were practically no limits on the costumes for the party, they clearly feel that this guest overstepped into what is offensive. Each guest dies "in the despairing posture of his fall."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team