The Gold-Bug Essay - Critical Discussion

Edgar Allan Poe

Critical Discussion

Legrand's solution to the mystery of Captain Kidd's treasure is certainly complicated enough, and Poe's readers plainly enjoyed the mental exercise of following his reasoning. Like Poe's famous French detective C. Auguste Dupin, Legrand proceeds on the assumption that any mystery that one human being can devise can be solved by another. The trick is to combine mechanical reasoning (such as that entailed in solving the cryptogram), with intuitive leaps (associating the parchment near the abandoned long boat with pirate treasure and the symbol of the young goat with Captain Kidd). Legrand admits that a certain amount of luck was involved in finding the treasure. In the second part of the story, for example, he directs the narrator's attention to some of the accidental strokes that enabled them to arrive at the hidden fortune:

Do you observe how mere an accident it was that these events should have occurred upon the sole day of the year in which it has been, or may be sufficiently cool for fire, and that without the fire, or without the intervention of the dog at the precise moment at which he appeared, I should never have become aware of the death's head, and so never the possessor of the treasure?

By such statements, Legrand acknowledges that while he may have used his outstanding intuition (and background knowledge) or creative intelligence to make the necessary associations or connections and his analytical intelligence to educe meanings at each step along the way, absent certain accidents, he would never have realized that there was a puzzle to solve in the first place.

"The Gold Bug" is somewhat unusual in Poe's work in that it is set in an actual locale with which the author himself was personally familiar. During his years in the army, Poe had been stationed at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island (like the lieutenant to whom Legrand lent the gold bug). Indeed, his detailed accounts...

(The entire section is 507 words.)