32 pages 1 hour read

Edgar Allan Poe

The Gold Bug

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1843

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Character Analysis


The narrator of “The Gold-Bug” remains anonymous throughout the story, and Poe reveals very little about him, other than that he resides in Charleston and became acquainted with William Legrand “by mere accident” (8). Even when the narrator receives a letter from Legrand, Poe blanks out how Legrand addresses him, intentionally creating mystery around the narrator’s identity.

The narrator recounts the story in first person from some unspecified point in the future. However, the narrator is not omniscient and demonstrates unreliable tendencies, such as being easily led to believe that Legrand has lost his mind. Poe inserts a red herring by ventriloquizing the narrator to lead the reader astray with worries about Legrand’s sanity. Poe intends the fears of the narrator to become the fears of the reader, i.e. that Legrand is experiencing a mental health issue. One of the plot twists is that the narrator is wrong, Legrand is perfectly sane and has cracked a series of cryptic clues that lead to buried treasure. Therefore, Poe also sets up a competition between narrator and reader as to who will realize that Legrand is right first.

Despite the lack of personal details about the narrator, he exhibits kindly tendencies towards Legrand.