In praise of short fiction: lessons learned from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Gold Bug”

Digging the gold. Source: users.telenet.be

In what we call as artificial story, there is abundant knowledge upon certain subject, deep understanding on human attitude and sophisticated calculation. Such is as I obtain after reading The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe.

After slowing my reading pace down on the short story, I don’t still really get how Mr. William Legrand can fully unveil mystery surrounding a beetle that brings in him a treasure.

I am like the narrator in the story who regards Mr. William Legrand an insane person. His obsession to the beetle makes him loses his mind. And I do hope that is proven by the end of the story. Perhaps as a reader who gets used to reading books by George Eliot and Charles Dickens, my view on imaginative story gets blurred. I find it hard to differentiate imagination and reality because, as much as the two create artificial story, their ways of depicting story conveying message feel like they are like non-fictions.

I almost forgot that I this time around, I read The Gold Bug, a story by the master of imaginative, mysterious and Gothic theme, Edgar Allan Poe. I shouldn’t expect at the very beginning that the short fiction would confront me with moral values as I often get after reading books by Victorian writers. Thanks God, that didn’t happen. Otherwise, why would I buy his short story collection if not I wanted to look for highly qualified reading in contrast to what I usually enjoy?

As much as I am entertained by Poe’s idea in The Gold Bug, I get confused with his way of loosening all riddles bit by bit. Don’t worry. It’s just my poor reading capability. I need to work a little bit harder for reading this type of story.

Mr. Legrand has his days deeply engaged with the beetle. He believes this insect means so much for him. His curiosity makes him ill, acts so weird that it’s no wonder that the narrator as his friend, considers him crazy.

Despite the narrator’s opinion, he still wants to accompany Mr. Legrand going to a forest along with his assistant, Jupiter. The narrator only wishes to ascertain that his friend will coming back home safe and sound after he receives Jupiter’s letter saying that his master is quite sick.

So, off they go to the forest. Then Mr. Legrand instructs Jupiter to climb a tree. I’m sorry that I can’t elaborate anymore because my poor reading ability at this time can’t trace all in details.

All I can sum up here is that they do find the treasure, in forms of a heavy box full of gold coins. Mr. Legrand explains (I try to explain here as I possibly can), the mystery is firstly introduced by a paper that he gets burned after the narrator mocks it. It turns out the paper contains chemical substance that brings out number.

Here, I am amazed by Mr. Legrand’s intelligence in cracking the numbers that later become words and phrases and eventually the exact location of the hidden treasure. I am happy to know Poe brings him up as a sample of crazy person who doesn’t giving up his hope despite what others say about him.

Behind that absurd, non-sense statement there lies peculiar logic that only requires us paying more attention to it. Mr. Legrand is a good example for that.

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