Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Legrand, the hero, is similar to other Poe characters; he is well educated, possessed of excellent reasoning powers, somewhat reclusive, formerly wealthy, and known for his mental instability. Like Dupin, the hero of Poe’s later detective stories, Legrand’s actions puzzle other characters, especially the narrator friend, with whom the reader tends to identify. Combining two such characters with a puzzling situation became a formula for Poe in creating suspenseful stories.

The structuring of “The Gold-Bug” in two parts is also typical of Poe. Suspense builds in the first part because neither the narrator nor the reader understands Legrand’s actions. The quotation used as a head note implies that Legrand may indeed be mad. When his actions lead to the discovery of the treasure, one mystery is solved. A major question remains: How did Legrand know where to look? In the second half of the story, Legrand explains the reasoning that led to such success. Again, suspense builds as he gives his detailed explanation, which by the end of the story ties up all loose ends. Regardless of whether he guesses the answers, the reader is treated to mystery and suspense in a well-wrought tale in which the hero accomplishes his goal.

In addition to suspense, “The Gold-Bug” includes a touch of humor, principally achieved by the incongruity between the elevated language (used by many Poe characters) of Legrand and the narrator and the dialect of...

(The entire section is 418 words.)