Tales of Edgar Allan Poe – He Really Had Me Going For A Minute There . . .

The Gold-Bug – Includes Spoilers

“Why, to be frank, I felt somewhat annoyed by your evident suspicions touching my sanity, and so resolved to punish you quietly, in my own way, by a little bit of sober mystification.”
~Legrand, The Gold-Bug

So, for the record, I’ve been reading far too much Edgar Allan Poe lately.

I’m not sure if I’m allowed to use that fact to explain my very wrong predictions about the end of an Edgar Allan Poe story, but I’m certainly going to try.

Now, I’ve just come off Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, all stories with a rather twisted and dark element about them. So, even though I knew that I was reading a Tale of Ratiocination (a word I still can’t spell without looking it up), I was definitely not ready for what actually happened.

The tale starts out with the unnamed narrator’s friend fining a golden beetle, then apparently going crazy with some wild scheme to recover his family fortune, dragging his slave and the narrator off into the underbrush with a scythe and some shovels.

At that point, I had a bunch of theories. The friend was completely off his rocker, and was going to force the slave and the narrator to dig their own graves. Or, the friend was possessed by the spirit of the beetle, and was going to lead them all to the forest dwelling of the beetle clan to be eaten alive. Or maybe, in an even bigger twist, it’s really the slave who’s possessing the friend, and they’re all going to become subject to some maniacal voodoo ritual deep in the forests of South Carolina. I was all ready for it to be something really awful. Poe wasn’t going to fool me.

You want to know how it turned out? The friend had discovered a treasure map that led them to an incredible horde. It was all very logical, practically oozing ratiocination. And why was the friend acting crazy? He was just trying to have one over on the narrator (see the above quote).

What really happened was, he had one over on me. I don’t know if it was intentional, or if I’m just a real sucker, but this story got me good. It would be excellent as a standalone piece, because the story behind the map is rather ingenious and fun to read about. But in this context, after 200 pages of horror and suspense and the grotesque and the arabesque, I was genuinely thrown for a loop by a good treasure hunt.

The Gold-Bug was a blast, and I sincerely recommend it to anyone who cares to read it. But make sure you read Poe’s creepier stuff first. This is an excellent follow-up to the more macabre stories, simply because it is unexpected by contrast. I have to think that it’s the first of the Tales of Ratiocination (there, I spelled it by myself!) for a reason.

For an analysis of the possible allegorical aspects of The Gold-Bug, as well as for an interpretation of the ending which, I must admit, didn’t occur to me, see:

Published in: on September 12, 2010 at 12:16 AM  Leave a Comment  
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