Discusses the short story the "Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allen Poe as an allegory.
The short story, “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe, on the “surface” tells the story of a prince during the time of a plague called the Red Death. The prince, Prospero is his name, stocks a secluded abbey with a substantial amount of supplies, and locks himself in the abbey with one thousand of his friends. During their stay, the guests attend many parties and balls hosted by Prospero. The last ball they attend, close to the end of their stay in the Abbey, the Red Death finds them and they are all killed. This story is full of hidden meanings and symbolism, one significant example being the ebony clock.
The ebony clock represents many things in the story. First of all, the clock is made of ebony, a black wood. Traditionally, the color black represents death. Not only is the color of the clock suggestive, but the clock itself seems to be counting down the lives of Prospero and his guests. Part of the last paragraph reads: “And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of gay,” suggesting that the clocks life was somehow linked to the lives of Prospero and his company. The clock stopped when everyone died. Second of all, the clock seemed to act as a reminder to Prospero and his guests that life is limited. They moved into the abbey to escape death, unconsciously knowing that death can only be postponed and is inevitable, but every time the clock rang, all the guests were solemnly and consciously reminded that their time is limited, explaining why all of the guests felt so unnerved. The middle of the fifth paragraph says, “While the chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation.” Lastly, the final striking of the clock to signify midnight marked the arrival of the Red Death. The middle of the eighth paragraph says, “But now there were twelve strokes to be sounded by the bell of the clock; and thus it happened, perhaps, that more of thought crept, with more of time, into the meditations of the thoughtful among those who revelled. And thus, too, it happened, perhaps, that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence, there were many individuals in the crowd who had found leisure to become aware of the presence of a masked figure which had arrested the attention of no single individual before.” The arrival of the Masked Figure at exactly midnight was of an almost poetic occurrence, helping add a more solemn and dramatic mood to the piece. A character appearing “at the stroke of midnight” is a much more dramatic, and to many, interesting occurrence then a character just appearing.
Overall, one of the most important symbols in the “Masque of the Red Death”, is the ebony clock because not only did the clock acted as a reminder to Prospero and his guests that death was coming, but it acted as a representation for death and its striking of midnight, signified the arrival of the Masked figure. Therefore, the ebony clock adds an almost necessary element to the mood and symbolism of the story.