The Gold Bug, a short story by E. A. Poe

I say the singularity of this coincidence absolutely stupefied me for a time. This is the usual effect of such coincidences. The mind struggles to establish a connection—a sequence of causes and effect—and, being unable to do so, suffers a species of temporary paralysis. But, when I recovered from this stupor, there dawned upon me gradually a conviction which startled me even far more than the coincidence.”

About the story: The Gold Bug is a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe and is the first story in his Tales of Mystery and Imagination collection (which I am currently reading.) Poe is supposed to have submitted this story to a writing contest and won a prize of a hundred dollars, making it one of his most widely read and appreciated stories, during his lifetime.

Summary: William Legrand, the narrator’s friend, leads a curious life on Sullivan’s Island near Charleston, South Carolina. He lives in a small hut, which he himself built, and along with an old man called Jupiter, engages himself in activities like gunning and fishing; not to mention searching for unique shells or entomological specimens. It is on one such quest that Legrand captures and gets bit by a unique little bug, that seems to be made of pure gold. A month after this incident, the narrator notices his friend still acting very strangely. When Legrand forces the narrator to go on a long expedition into the forests with him, carrying the bug along with them, the narrator is most certain of his friend’s insanity and has all sorts of questions going through his mind; What caused this insanity? Was it the bug-bite? Where were they heading? (which you would have to read the story to answer!)

My Thoughts: The story is very unique and lovely, and the atmosphere, quintessentially Poe; eerie and dark. I loved that though the story is a treasure-hunt, it doesn’t focus on what treasure they found and what they did with it, but the element of mystery and the “drum-roll” or suspense that is built up on the way.

I loved the eccentric characters and the narration. What I really appreciated, was that the narration is very precise. You find out close to nothing about the narrator, making it easy, even, to relate to the story; I could easily put myself in the narrator’s shoes. Also, the narrator sticks to the one story and skillfully avoids writing anything irrelevant to this plot; in fact, even the names of characters other than the ones critical to the plot aren’t mentioned.

Poe was known to have an intense interest in cryptography; and I could see that from the story. The detailed descriptions of the code-breaking and puzzle-solving were very intriguing and entertaining. The descriptions are vivid and there is a tinge of humour to the writing, though the language does take some getting used to.

The story also had ” 53(85;8*+6*3 ”
Read the story and break the code to figure this one out! (Did this convince you to read the story?)
This is definitely one of my favourite short stories by Poe and certainly a must read!

R.I.P. – Metzengerstein: A Tale in Imitation of the German

Metzengerstein is Edgar Allan Poe’s first published short story.

Summary: The families Berlifitzing and Metzengerstein of Hungary have been rivals for centuries. Legend has it that the reason is this prophecy:

“A lofty name shall have a fearful fall when, as the rider over his horse, the mortality of Metzengerstein shall triumph over the immortality of Berlifitzing.”

The story begins when one night, the stables of today’s Berlifitzing family catch fire. At that same time, in his own castle, Baron Frederick von Metzengerstein notices the horse in the tapestry suddenly look alive. The painting depicts a Metzengerstein while dead at his feet, fallen from his horse, is a Berlifitzing, whom he killed. Only a few minutes later a ferocious and demon-like steed is found by the Metzengerstein guards. The horse is fiery and energetic, and has the letters “W.V.B” branded on its chest. News later reaches the Metzengerstein family that Count William von Berlifitzing died in the fire. Baron Frederick decides to keep the monstrous horse, unknowingly setting the prophecy in motion.

“In the glare of noon – at the dead hour of night – in sickness or in health – in calm or in tempest – the young Metzengerstein seemed riveted to the saddle of that colossal horse, whose intractable audacities so well accorded with his own spirit.”

My thoughts: This is the first time I have read anything by Poe (apart from listening to and not understanding the Raven once, a long time ago.) I really liked the prose. That something so modern was written more than a hundred years ago seems amazing. The tale, like the subtitle says in some prints, is argued to be a subtle mocking of the typically German gothic writings. While it is only argued (and not definite) and I am certainly no expert; I did detect a slight satire.

I loved the authority the narrator has over the text. He is almost a part of the story (as opposed to a silent observer) and is the only one left standing, at the very end. The key theme of the story, as is hinted to us very early in the story, is the general belief of those times in Metempsychosis, or transmigration of the soul.

I liked the eeriness of the story and do see myself reading more of Poe’s famous short stories. Meanwhile, you can read this story here. This review is a part of Peril of the Short Story from the R.I.P. Challenge. You can read more short stories on Short Stories on Wednesday at Risa’s Bread Crumb Reads.