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Short Story Analysis: The Gilded Six-Bits by Zora Neale Hurston

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Nakia Grant


ENC 1102

Word Count: 1044

Short story analysis: The GILDED SIX-BITS by Zora Neale Hurston

 The Gilded Six-Bits ,published in 1933, is set in Eatonville, Florida, the first all black town in the USA. This short story is about a young, recently married couple, Joe Banks and Missie May. In the story, the couple is fine and happily abides by gender roles; Joe works and buys her presents and Missie cooks up scrumptious feasts, cleans and listens to everything her husband says. A new guy, Otis D. Slemmons, comes into town from Chicago and open up an ice cream parlor. Otis is a shock to the community with his flashy “ gold” that people have never seen. As Joe is settled with his lack of gold, Missie May takes it into her own hands to get some gold, wreaking havoc on their marriage. It is clear in this story that Zora-Neale Hurston uses her life experiences and imagery to bring her stories to life.

The Glided-Six Bits starts by describing an all black town, Eatonville, but it then changes scenes to the bedroom, where Missie May is taken a bath. She rushes to put on her clothes before her husband, Joe, comes home from working the nightshift. They play their normal Saturday game of cat and mouse, wash up and eat dinner together. The couple normal life began to change as it get to the rising action. Joe announces that he wants to take Missie out to the new ice cream parlor in town. The shop is run by Otis D. Slemmons, a cool northern man with a lot of “gold”. Joe, wants to impress the guy while Missie doesn't get Slemmons, but to please her husband, she's gets dressed up and goes with him to have a sugar cone. The problem starts when Slemmons lays his eyes on Missie. The plot happens when one day, Joe gets out of work early and comes home to find Slemmons with his pants down and Missie in a corner crying. Slemmons begs for his life and offers Joe money. Joe punches Slemmons and tells him to get out of his house. The falling action is when the games stop it the household. Missie spends her time feeling sad and explains to Joe that, " said he wuz gointer give me dat gold money and he jes' kept on after me—." (214) The drama ends when Missie baby boy is reveled to be Joe’s. Joe goes to Orlando buy a ton of candy kisses, he comes home and throws silver dollars at the door for Missie to collect and keep.

 The title, Gilded Six-Bits, came from a reference to the supposedly gold watch chain that Slemmons wears in the story. A gilded six- bit is something covered in a thin layer of gold to improve the value. In the story, a half dollar was gilded to look more than 12 and a half cents. During this time, President Franklin Roosevelt switched the USA from gold standard and asked all US citizens to return all gold. Hurston gives us a clue that Slemmons may be lying. (Norman)

The Gilded Six-Bits narrator speaks as if she’s be in the position of both characters but is careful not to judge. Zora relates to the infidelity that takes place in the story but to make it unknown she switched it around in her story. (Jones) Just like her other stories, this story is written in third person omniscient. In the story, the narrator knows everything that's going on and passes on the information to us through thoughts, dialogue and observations. For example, on page 215, the narrator gives a look into one of the characters mind; “ Missie knew why she didn't leave Joe. She couldn't. She loved him too much, but she could not understand why Joe didn't leave her. “



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