32 pages 1 hour read

Edgar Allan Poe

The Gold Bug

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1843

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Secrecy and Solving Mysteries

There are several secrets in “The Gold-Bug,” which require uncovering by both the narrator and the reader. The central secret of the story is the location of Captain Kidd’s buried treasure, which is protected by series of mysteries. The first clue to the position of the gold is an illustration of a baby goat, or “kid,” which Legrand works out is a symbol of the infamous pirate, Captain Kidd. As “kid” is a play on words that only works in English, Legrand figures out that the rest of the encrypted message must be written in English, too. He proceeds to crack the cryptograph.

The cypher is a logic puzzle, the type of which was just becoming popular at the time Poe was writing. The author spends considerable time explaining the technicalities of solving the cypher, which suitably impresses the narrator, who, as most readers likely would, finds codebreaking to be exceedingly difficult. Legrand’s ability to crack the code exemplifies his “unusual powers of mind” (7). In the 19th century, anyone who could solve such encoded messages was considered exceptionally gifted. The details that Poe gives about how to crack a cryptograph essentially provide a lesson to the reader so they can solve puzzles of their own.