The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe Summary

Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

Though Edgar Allan Poe is known for his horror stories, he also often wrote stories of mystery and adventure. Please read on for a summary of one of Poe's mystery-and-adventure stories, ''The Gold-Bug''!

Summary of The Gold-Bug

The narrator tells of his friend, William LeGrand, who moved to an island off the coast of South Carolina in disgrace after losing his family fortune. LeGrand lives there in a tiny hut with a former slave named Jupiter. When the narrator comes to visit LeGrand one day, LeGrand tells him about a golden-colored scarab, or beetle, that he has found and given to a friend who wanted to examine it further. When LeGrand tries to draw an example of the beetle, the narrator says that it looks more like a human skull. Upset, LeGrand takes the drawing back and prepares to throw it into the fire to destroy it. Suddenly, he stops and looks more closely at the paper, and with a sound of surprise, he puts the paper away.

A month later, the narrator comes to visit again. When he arrives, he finds that Jupiter is worried because LeGrand has been wandering the island and writing down strange calculations obsessively for the past few days. The narrator believes that LeGrand is ill as well, but LeGrand shows that he is not physically sick.

LeGrand then convinces the narrator and Jupiter to join him on a walk in the forest. They walk to a large tree, where LeGrand takes the golden scarab out that he drew a picture of earlier in the story. He gives the scarab, which is attached to a string, to Jupiter. Then, he has Jupiter climb up to a limb and find a skull pinned there, and he asks Jupiter to drop the scarab through the left eye of the skull.

Once Jupiter does so, LeGrand measures out a distance from the spot where the bug has dropped and starts to dig. After some time, LeGrand stops digging and asks Jupiter which eye he thinks is his left eye; Jupiter chooses the wrong eye. As it turns out, Jupiter was confused by LeGrand's directions because the skull was turned away from him rather than toward him. Jupiter climbs the tree and drops the scarab down the other eye, and after it lands, LeGrand measures again. This time, the spot where they dig ends up being filled with gold coins and colorful jewels, as well as a few decaying skeletons.

An example of a scarab; the golden scarab that LeGrand finds eventually leads him to buried treasure.

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