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LORI LEAVELL University of Central Arkansas Poe’s Steadfast Servant in the Aftermath of Walker’s Appeal EDGAR ALLAN POE’S “THE GOLD-BUG” (1843) FOREGROUNDS THE relationship between a once-wealthy planter, William Legrand, and his former slave, Jupiter. Now a “valet,” Jupiter not only continues to serve his former master but also moves across the country—from New Orleans to Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina—in order to do so. By foregrounding Jupiter’s free status, the story underscores his fidelity, for while a slave would have to relocate with his master, a freedman ostensibly would have a choice. The unusual arrangement in which Jupiter supplies “supervision and guardianship,” as described by the unnamed narrator, is welcomed by the Legrand family because Legrand is believed to be “somewhat unsettled in intellect” (322). Jupiter’s loyalty to an ill-tempered Legrand, along with his superstitions and malapropisms, generates much of the story’s humor. Dutiful and gullible, “grinning from ear to ear, bustling about,” Jupiter is ever ready to wait on his “Massa Will” (323). But the narrator registers some uncertainty about Jupiter’s motivations and the circumstances surrounding his dedication to Legrand. These uncertainties expressed early in the story combine with subsequent instances of Jupiter’s non-compliance that, while overtly cast as comic, threaten to destabilize Jupiter’s categorization as loyal servant and invite reconsideration of Poe’s use of a racialized trope. Dubbed by Scott Peeples a “minstrel-show sidekick,” Jupiter has elicited consistent critical commentary (39).1 Toni Morrison’s claim in Playing in the Dark that “The Gold-Bug” delights in the threat of upendedhierarchies,evidentinJupiter’svirtualguardianship ofLegrand, while widely referenced, has had little impact on how scholarship understands Jupiter’s role in the story or on Poe’s deployment of racialized tropes more broadly. Teresa A. Goddu, recognizing “the general critical tendency to reduce the multiple agendas of Morrison’s 1 Describing “The Gold-Bug”asofferinga“beatificvisionof slavery,” Leonard Cassuto describes Jupiter as “a typical Sambo: a laughing and japing comic figure whose doglike devotion is matched only by his stupidity” (160). See Joseph Boskin’s Sambo: The Rise and Demise of an American Jester for a similar description (96-97). 540 Lori Leavell project to a singular hunt for figures of blackness,” calls for analysis that telescopes out from Poe’s texts to culture more broadly. Rather than attempting to forge “a clear path back to Poe’s authorial consciousness,” scholarship should pay more attention to the deployment of “genre” and “conventions,” Goddu contends, for doing so would situate Poe’s literary engagements with race within a “larger sociocultural field and at the nexus of multiple cultural discourses” (15). In the case of “The Gold-Bug,” we stand to gain from the shift in focus that Goddu recommends—from sleuthing for clues to Poe’s racial psychology to historicizing and contextualizing his deployment of literary devices that carry racialized meaning. Jupiter’s seeming dedication and freedom of mobility acquire new meaning when read in light of 1830 Louisiana legislation that called for removal of recently manumitted freedmen and prevented free persons ofcolorfromentering the state (Robinson 112-14). In addition to ridding the state of free persons of color, the Louisiana law outlined punitive measuresforcirculatingtextsaimedtoproduce“insubordination”among slaves and free blacks (Robinson 10). Identifying both freely circulating black bodies and texts as threatening, the Louisiana legislation was part of a series of Southern laws passed in late 1829 and 1830 in response to theuncheckeddisseminationofanantislavery,black-authoredpamphlet from Boston, David Walker’s Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World (1829-30).2 The Appeal forcefully argues for both the end of slavery and the rights of African Americans already free, and against efforts to recolonize black Americans to Africa. Walker issues an uncompromising vision of black citizenship and makes clear that, in the spirit of the American Revolution, black Americans were ready to take up arms to bring it to pass. Confronted with a text of black authorship making its way quickly and surreptitiously into the far reaches of the South, state authorities sought to control black mobility of any kind. To be sure, while the pamphlet’s content was considered radical, its...