The Gold Bug | Study Guide

Edgar Allan Poe

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The Gold Bug | Quotes


What ho! What ho! this fellow is dancing mad! / He hath been bitten by the Tarantula. / All in the Wrong.


The epigraph sets up readers to believe a bite from the gold bug turns Legrand insane, but the final attribution—All in the Wrong—hints that the insanity may be a diversionary tactic. (All in the Wrong is the title of an 18th-century Irish play by Arthur Murphy, but Poe seems to have misattributed the quote, whether by intent or accident. It is similar to one in a different play by Murphy.)


He had once been wealthy; but a series of misfortunes had reduced him to want.


The narrator characterizes Legrand as a man who, like Poe himself, had lost everything and hoped to redeem himself by regaining his fortune.


I'm berry sartain dat Massa Will bin bit somewhere bout de head by dat goole-bug.


Legrand manipulates Jupiter into believing he's insane to lure the narrator back to the island. Jupiter calling the bug "goole" references its color, but also hints that the bug is evil, or "ghoulish."


The bug is to make my fortune.

William Legrand

Legrand is obsessed with restoring his wealth and feels certain the gold bug will be the answer to his struggles. In the end, however, it's Legrand's intelligence and code-breaking skills that earn him the fortune.


I could scarcely refrain from tears. I thought it best, however, to humor his fancy.


The narrator fears Legrand has gone insane, largely because of Jupiter's assumptions about the bite Legrand received from the bug. For the rest of the story, the narrator goes along with Legrand's plans out of fear of angering a crazy man.


You infernal soundrel! ... I'll break your neck.

William Legrand

Legrand lashes out at Jupiter after he threatens to drop the bug from the tree. Their heated exchange is actually comedic and provides insight into their relationship. Jupiter, a freed slave, feels comfortable enough to tease his master despite Legrand's threats.


'Tis my left hand what I chops de wood wid.


Jupiter assumes he knows the difference between right and left because he's left-handed. This assumption, which turns out to be wrong, characterizes Jupiter as dim-witted. This has created controversy with critics about racial stereotyping in the story.


I no longer felt any great aversion from the labor imposed.


The energy surrounding the second dig transforms the experience for the narrator. Swept up in Legrand's excitement, the narrator no longer fears for his friend's sanity.


Ain't you shamed ob yourself ... answer me dat!


After the treasure is revealed, Jupiter leaps into the pit and buries his arms in the gold, delighting in the newfound wealth but chastising himself for doubting Legrand. As a freed slave, emotional outbursts from Jupiter are more socially acceptable than they would be from an upper-class man like Legrand or the narrator, although they almost certainly felt the same way.


I say the singularity of this coincidence absolutely stupefied me for a time.

William Legrand

While recounting how he came to solve Kidd's cryptogram, Legrand notes the important role coincidence had in his success.


Parchment is durable—almost imperishable.

William Legrand

Legrand's comments about parchment versus paper have led critics to conclude Poe favored gold and silver currency rather than paper money, a significant social debate in 19th-century America.


Ah, hereupon turns the whole mystery; although the secret ... I had comparatively little difficulty in solving.

William Legrand

Describing the cryptogram, Legrand boasts of his superior intellect and the ease with which he solved the puzzle, although it would have been difficult for the narrator or average reader.


It may well be doubted whether human ingenuity can construct an enigma ... which human ingenuity may not ... resolve.

William Legrand

This statement sums up Poe's love of cryptograms, which is arguably one of the main reasons he wrote this story—to show off his superior intellect while devising puzzles more accessible to his audience. It also describes his attitude toward ratiocination, the detective style he advocates in this and other stories.


I felt somewhat annoyed by your evident suspicions touching my sanity, and so resolved to punish you quietly ... by a little bit of sober mystification.

William Legrand

The narrator thinks Legrand swinging the bug on a string is another sure sign of insanity. With these words, Legrand reveals the gold bug as having value only as a prop to convince both Jupiter and the narrator that he was going mad.


[Kidd] may have thought it expedient to remove all participants in his secret. Perhaps a couple of blows with a mattock were sufficient ... who shall tell?

William Legrand

Legrand speculates to the narrator (and readers) that the skulls and skeletons found with the treasure were Kidd's fellow pirates and that Legrand might also be considering eliminating the others who will share in the treasure: the narrator and Jupiter. In typical Poe style, the story ends in mystery.

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