Plot Summary

If you are visiting this website, it’s assumed that you already have an at least preliminary understanding of the Gold-Bug in regards to its plot. In case you don’t, here’s what happens.

The Gold-Bug centers around an unnamed narrator and his involvement with William Legrand, a friend of his who lives on Sullivan’s Island in Charleston, SC with his slave Jupitar. The narrator arrives to a joyous Legrand, euphoric over a golden insect he has recently discovered. Since he has lent the specimen to a Lieutenant, Legrand draws a picture of the bug for his friend to see.

The insect is brilliant gold, with two large black spots near one extremity of the back, and another on the other side. It is about the size of a hickory nut.

Upon the completion of the drawing the narrator inspects it and concludes that the bug most closely resembles a human skull. Legrand does not agree. They bicker about it for a minute until Legrand takes a second look, at which point he becomes enthralled with the sketching, completely obsessed with what he’s drawn. He ignores his guest for some time, his eyes buried in the paper, which he turns from side to side in his all-inche inspection. The narrator, who had planned to spend the night, begins to feel unwelcome, and leaves.

The narrator hasn’t heard from Legrand in a month when Jupitar arrives at his door, delivering a letter from his master urging the narrator to see him at his home in regards to a matter of “the highest importance”. Jupitar tells the narrator that he thinks Legrand has been bitten by the golden bug and has fallen ill.

Once the narrator arrives on Sullivan’s Island, Legrand tells him that he believes the bug is made out of solid gold and is worth a fortune. He then makes the narrator accompany him on a journey through the wilderness with the insect tied to a string.

After two hours the men come across a large tulip tree, which Legrand instructs Jupitar to climb. All the way up on the seventh limb, Jupitar finds a human skull dangling high above the ground. He is then instructed to drop the beetle down through the skull’s left eye socket. Where the bug falls, Legrand begins to dig. After two hours, they find nothing. It is then when Jupitar realizes he dropped the bug through the skull’s right eye.

The servant goes through the routine again, this time correctly, and the men begin to dig once more. It’s in this spot where they find a vast buried treasure of jewels.

The narrator estimates the treasure, buried by the legendary Captain Kidd, to be worth $1.5 million. Poe offers a detailed description of the treasure’s contents, and once it has been safely recovered, Legrand finally describes the methods of which he used to find it.

The man pieced together a cryptogram which he found on his drawing of the death’s-head-shaped beetle. After discovering the code, a monumental feat in itself, Legrand then deciphered the hidden message, both of which are reproduced below. He succinctly wraps up the story by sharing his detailed procedure, leaving no loose ends or questions as to the treasure of how he found it.

The Code:
“53‡‡†305))6*;4826)4‡)4‡;806*;48‡8¶60))85;1-(;:*8-83(88)5*‡

;46(;88*96*?;8)*‡(;485);5*†2:*‡(;4956*2(5*- 4)8¶8*;40692

85);)6†8)4;1(‡9;48081;8:8‡1;48†85;4)485†528806*81(‡9;48;

(88;4(‡?34;48)4‡;161;:188;‡?;”

The translated message:

A good glass in the bishop’s hostel in the devil’s seat
forty-one degrees and thirteen minutes northeast and by north
main branch seventh limb east side shoot from the left eye of the death’s-head
a bee line from the tree through the shot fifty feet out.

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