The Gilded Six-Bits” by Zora Neal Hurston Analysis

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The Gilded Six-Bits by Zora Neale Hurston is a story that was published in 1933 and is influenced by the Harlem Renaissance, a period in which black artists explored their culture and showed pride in their race through literature, music and other art. The story follows newlyweds Joe and Missie May Banks, who live in a small town in Florida. Their relationship is tested when Otis Slemmons, a man who appears to be wealthy but is actually poor, comes into their lives and ruins their relationship. Hurston uses the theme of appearance versus reality to suggest that things aren’t as simple as they appear to be. The story teaches readers not to judge someone based on what they appear to be, and to consider the possibility that they may be putting up a facade.

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The text highlights the strong influence that Hurston’s life as an African American during the Harlem Renaissance had on her work. This artistic movement served as a platform for black artists to express their pride in their race and delve into their culture through various forms of art, such as literature and music.

Published in 1933 by Bertram Lippincott, “The Gilded Six-Bits” is a story magazine featuring the three main characters: Joe Banks, Missie May Banks, and Otis Slemmons. The newlywed couple, Joe and Missie May Banks, reside in Eatonville, Florida. Joe is employed on the night shift at G;G Fertilizer while Missie May stays at home as a wife hoping to start a family.

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The couple is deeply in love until Otis Slemmons enters their lives. Slemmons appears to be wealthy, but upon closer inspection, he is revealed to be a manipulative individual who travels from place to place wrecking relationships. However, his attempts to harm Joe and Missie May’s relationship prove unsuccessful, as Joe ultimately forgives Missie May for her betrayal.

It took Joe a while to finally forgive Missie May, but he did so after the birth of their first child. This is demonstrated by Joe’s return to the Market in Orlando and his arrival home with chocolate kisses for his wife and newborn son. In “The Gilded Six-Bits,” Huston explores the theme of appearance versus reality, implying that things are not always as straightforward as they seem. This theme is initially introduced in “The Gilded Six-Bits” when we first encounter Joe Banks and Missie May.

Initially, it is not evident that the couple is married; their actions suggest they are simply dating. However, in a surprising twist, we discover that they are indeed newlyweds. This contrast between perception and truth is also echoed through Otis Slemmons.

He gives the impression of being a wealthy individual through his demeanor. However, it turns out that he is merely pretending for the benefit of the townspeople. Otis always carried a gold piece and a gold-looking watch charm, but he would never allow anyone to touch them. The reason for this secrecy is that he wished to conceal his true identity as a destitute person, much like everyone else in town.

Later on, we discover that the gold piece was not actually gold but a gilded half-dollar, and the watch charm was a gilded four-bit piece. This serves as another example of how money, even if it’s genuine, is associated with notions of paradise. It is also important because it exposes the true nature of Slemmons and the rationale behind his wandering from one town to another. Similar to the fake gold, he is merely a façade.

In summary, refrain from making snap judgments when initially encountering someone. It is essential to familiarize yourself with them before forming an opinion about their character. Keep in mind that individuals, like Slemmons, may attempt to project an affluent image, despite lacking actual wealth. This could be a mere facade.

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The Gilded Six-Bits” by Zora Neal Hurston Analysis. (2018, Feb 18). Retrieved from

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