Friday, July 10, 2009

Poe Fridays: The Gold Bug

Our two week reading for Poe Fridays has been The Gold Bug. You can read it here if you haven't yet.

This is the longest story we've read so far but it was definitely one of the easiest and quickest! Some of the short stories (think "Why the Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling") took much longer to decipher. This is a straight-forward story about a treasure hunt, told by a first person narrator. The narrator has a friend who has retired to a very small island barely off the coast of South Carolina. One day he visits the friend who tells him about a unique beetle that he has found that appears to be made of gold. He doesn't have the beetle at the moment to show the narrator so instead he grabs a piece of paper from his pocket and draws a picture and hands it over. The narrator comments that the beetle looks exactly like a skull and hands back the paper. His friend looks at it again and becomes agitated. A month later, the narrator is contacted by his friend and asked to come help him on a short excursion. They end up in the middle of the island, digging in the soil until they come across a couple of skeletons and a treasure chest! The narrator then demands that his friend reveals how he came across the idea that treasure was buried in this place and we are treated to some more of Poe's fascination with detection skills.

This was yet another type of story from Poe. There were a few Gothic touches but overall it was an adventure story. The only issue I had with the story was the dialect assigned to the friend's black manservant. Poe definitely tends to overdo the stereotypical language styles of his non-white-American characters. The servant-- a freed slave --was also written to be quite stupid which was irritating from a modern perspective. It's hard to even excuse Poe based on the times. If you are sensitive to these sorts of portrayals, I would suggest skipping this story.

I've chosen the short story The Devil in the Belfry for next week. It is apparently about the Dutch and has some ridiculously spelled words in it but hopefully it's readable!

Hoping to come across my own treasure map,


  1. Interesting - I didn't find it that quick a read at all. I really enjoyed the cryptology segments, but had to concentrate on them. And I wasn't very engaged with any of the characters - I agree that Jupiter was pretty racist. I think part of my problem with this story is that it was included in a child's anthology I read a lot as a kid - pictures on every other page. The actual, full story itself just seemed so much slower. =)

  2. I forgot to post my link on this one. Here it is . . .

    I didn't realize it at the time that I was reading the story, but you are right on about Jupiter's character. When reading from this time period, this assumption of character is so common. I'm so glad to see how far we have come as a nation simply by looking at how the characters are portrayed in more recent books and stories.

  3. I have a review posting (tomorrow, I think) of a modern book that wrote another culture's dialog in a very racist way and I am NOT excusing it. In our modern times, there isn't an excuse for it. I gave a little more leeway to Poe only because of where he was from and when.

  4. I am very interested to read this review! With modern books, there is no excuse!