The Masque of the Red Death Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

The Masque of the Red Death book cover
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Why does the party stop every hour?

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In Poe's classic short story "The Masque of the Red Death," Prince Prospero invites a thousand of his closest aristocratic friends to seclude themselves inside his castellated abbey while the deadly pestilence known as the Red Death wreaks havoc throughout the surrounding countryside. Inside the abbey, Prince Prospero and his guests participate in revelries and thoroughly enjoy themselves while thousands die from the deadly plague outside the abbey's walls. Around the fifth or sixth month of their seclusion, Prince Prospero holds a magnificent, bizarre masquerade in his seven-room imperial suite. During the masquerade, the guests wear grotesque, strange costumes and travel throughout the imperial suite, indulging in alcohol and dancing to the music.

While the revelers are enjoying themselves, the party comes to a complete stop every hour when the ominous ebony clock ushers a loud, monotonous clang, signifying the hour change. Whenever the clock chimes, the musicians stop playing and the guests become extremely nervous. There is also a forbidding, threatening mood that fills the party, and the guests suddenly become quiet until the chimes come to a stop. The ebony clock that emits the "peculiar," unsettling sound every hour symbolically represents mortality and impending death. Whenever the clock chimes, the guests are reminded of their mortality and recognize that they will die someday. Essentially, they are reminded that they cannot outwit death and that their demise is inevitable when ebony clock chimes each hour.

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