Thirty-Two Stories

By Edgar Allan Poe; Stuart Levine et al. | Go to book overview

THE GOLD-BUG

Mr. Legrand's instability is not as serious as the narrator imagines, of course; Legrand knows what he is about. He is an impecunious scientific amateur who has been bitten by a gold-bug different from the one Jupiter imagines. Yet the hint of mental instability, the high excitement under which he operates on his quest, and the brilliance of his solution clearly indicate Poe's usual pattern-- creativity is associated with madness. Note also that the relationship between the narrator and Legrand is very similar to that between the narrator and Dupin in the Parisian detective tales: the narrator is a friend who plays "straight man."

Poe's stereotype of the ex-slave Jupiter is in his usual racially offensive manner, part of the illiberal line which Kaplan feels culminates in a racist allegory at the close of Poe's novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. But the treatment is at least good humored here, rather in the vein of Poe's treatment of the black character in his incomplete novel The Journal of Julius Rodman. Jupiter is loyal and superstitious. He also talks funny; his misunderstandings produce some bad puns. Yet he is unafraid of a skull ("somebody bin lef him head up de tree") or of climbing an enormous yellow poplar ("tulip tree.").

Some critics of Poe believe that he deliberately sustained a reputation as a kind of wizard, that the pose gave him an effective and memorable public "image." Bragging about his prowess as decipherer of codes and puzzles may have been part of Poe's pose. Magazines of the period were filled with puzzles and curiosities, and Poe exploited popular interest in them in numerous ways, among them an article in Alexander's Weekly Messenger ( December 18, 1839) in which he offered to decipher cryptograms, and a follow-up piece in Graham's ( July 1841), in which he claimed to have solved all but one of the hundred or so submitted. His fibbing does not obscure his sure sense of reader interest; newspapers, popular magazines, and literary reviews still tantalize subscribers with puzzles of the same sort.


PUBLICATION IN POE'S TIME
The Dollar Newspaper, June 21 and 28, 1843 (serially, with first part repeated on June 28)
The Dollar Newspaper, supplement, July. 12, 1843
The Volunteer, Montrose, Pa., August 3, 10, and 17, 1843
Revue britannique, French translation, 1845
Tales, 1845
The Gold Bug, separate pamphlet, London, 1846-47
Boston Museum, June 22, 1848

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