Students imitate the writing style Edgar Allan Poe used in the opening paragraph of his “Masque of the Red Death.”
Edgar Allen Poe, suspense, literature, literary elements, setting, foreshadowing, imagery, conflict.
Begin the lesson by writing the word suspense on a board or chart. Ask students to identify the meaning of the word and to talk about suspenseful moments they have read or seen in movies; and elements or techniques that writers and moviemakers use to add suspense.
Provide students with a copy of the opening paragraph of Edgar Allan Poe's Masque of Red Death. Each student might have an individual copy or you could use a projector to project the text on a screen.
The "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal -- the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.
Talk about how Poe uses suspense in that opening paragraph.
--- What would it have been like to live at the time of the "Red Death"? How do you know that from what Poe wrote?
--- What techniques does he use to establish a tone?
--- What emotions does that first paragraph instill in you? --- What adjectives has he used to set the scene in that opening paragraph?
--- How has he used synonyms to paint a picture?
Introduce the following terms and their definitions: suspense, setting, foreshadowing, imagery, and conflict. How did Poe use those literary techniques in the opening paragraph of his story?
Explain to students that they are going to create their own opening paragraphs by using some of the same writing techniques Poe used in the "Masque of the Red Death." They will write a single paragraph that creates a single emotional effect, such as fear, terror, joy, or depression
As students begin to write, circulate around the room. Answer questions and offer encouragement. Emphasize to students that they should keep in mind the effect they wish to create, beginning with their first sentence. Impress upon them that their goal is to have all elements come together into one unified and dramatic paragraph.
Students might complete the assignment overnight
The next day, arrange student in pairs. Students will exchange papers and evaluate/critique and make suggestions about each other's drafts. As the writing partner reads the peer's paragraph, s/he should be looking for specific things:
After the peer has reviewed the writing, students will polish up their paragraphs on their own so they will have a Poe paragraph to present by the end of the period.
AssessmentThe students will turn in their "Perfected Poe Paragraph" at the end of the period. Was the student able to effectively apply the elements Poe employed in his paragraph?
Kathryn Donlin, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (Pennsylvania)