Coins, quilts and a creek, what could these three things possibly have in common? They are all symbols of love, freedom, family and legacy. In “The Gilded Six Bits” by Zora Neale Hurston the coins represent Joe and Missie Mae’s relationship. In “Women Hollering Creek” by Sandra Cisneros the creek represents a bridge to the past and the future for Cleofilas. In “Use” by Alice Walker the quilts represent family legacy and what happens when families disagree about that legacy. In “The Six Gilded Bits” we meet Joe and Misse Mae, newlyweds. They are young, in love and exceptionally happy with their life.
They have lived a modest life in a small house “but there was something happy about it”. (Hurston 1) We meet Misse Mae first as she is preparing the house and herself for Joe to come home from work. “Who dat chunkin money in mah do’way? ” (Hurston 1) Joe and Misse Mae have a ritual. Every week Joe comes home with his paycheck and he throws it in the doorway so that Missie can pile it up on the table while they have their dinner. It is a game for them, to save money for the children they hope to have soon. . At first the coins are fun and loving. ¬¬
It isn’t long before coins take on a very different meaning. There is a new man in town Otis D. Slemmons. He owns the ice cream parlor and he tells great stories of his wealth. Joe is quite taken by him and wants to bring Missie Mae to the ice cream parlor to show her off. Joe tells her to “Go’head on now, honey, and put on yo’ clothes. He talkin’ ‘bout his pritty omens – Ah want ‘im to see mine. ” Joe knows he can’t compare to Mr. Otis Slemmons but as far as Joe is concerned no-body can compete with his Missy Mae. Joe is very impressed with Slemmons; he goes on and on about how important he is.
He also wishes he could be more like Slemmons, a rich man, and important man. Repeating the stories Slemmons has told him about the life he lives. Missie Mae is a bit less enchanted. She doesn’t see the attraction and the pull of the money at first. She also doesn’t believe Slemmons. “Dat don’t make it so. His mouf is cut corssways, ain’t it? Well, he kin lik jes’ lak anybody else. ” (Hurston 4) She thinks he could be lying, of course Joe believes him. “He’s got a five-dollar gold piece for a stickpin and he got a ten-dollar gold piece on his watch chain and his mouf is jes’ crammed full f gold teeths. ” (Hurston 4) Shortly after they visit the ice cream parlor Joe comes home from work early. He finds Missie Mae and Slemmons in bed. At first Joe is not quite sure what is going on or what to do. “The great belt of Time slipped and eternity stood still. ” He stands there and laughs, for a short while then he hits him “Joes’ own rushed out to crush him like a battering ram. ” (Hurston 6) Joe realizes after Slemmons has left; that he has his golden watch charm in his fist. Coins now mean something very different for Missie Mae and Joe.
They are no longer a symbol of their love and hope for the future. Now they are a symbol of betrayal and what is lost for a while but with time can be regained. In Sandra Cisneros’s “Woman Hollering Creek” we meet a sad young girl named Cleofilas Enriqueta DeLeon Hernandez. She hopes her life will be modeled after the telenovelas she watches faithfully. “She has been waiting for, has been whispering and sighing and giggling for, has been anticipating since she was old enough o lean against the window displays of gauze and butterflies and lace, is passion. ” (Cisneros 1)
She is marries Juan Pedro. She dreams of their new house in Seguin. “Well not exactly new, but they’re going to repaint the house. (Cisneros 2) That’s what newlyweds do isn’t it? Cleofilas is young and believes her whole life is finally going to begin in Seguin; it sadly does not turn into the life she longed for. There is a creek in the back of the house that Cleofilas finds comfort in. “La Gritona. Such a funny name for such a lovely arroyo. ” (Cisneros 2) She is also quite curious about it. “Women Hollering” (Cisneros 2) who would name a creek something so different, so odd. Pain or rage, Cleofilas wondered when she drove over the bridge the first time a newlywed and Juan Pedro had pointed it out. ” (Cisneros 4) Nobody can tell her why the creek is called this. She questions some of the town people but they dismiss. Cloefilas herself may come to the answer in time that perhaps the woman was hollering with both pain and rage. Much like she herself may have felt like doing after the first time Juan hits her, and then over and over gain when he continues to beat her. She sometimes sits out by the creek and remembers her father telling her “I am your father, I will never abandon you. (Cisneros 1) She remembers this only after she is a mother and this is when she realizes “How when a man and a woman love each other, sometimes that love sours. But a parent’s love for a child, a child’s for its parents, is another thing entirely. ” (Cisneros 1) Surely by now she feels her love souring. She can not understand why Juan must drink all time and why he continues to beat after he promises that he will never do it again. Cleofilas knows she can go home, her father as much told her so. She does not go for fear of shaming him. “But how could she go back there? What a disgrace. What would the neighbors say? (Cisneros 3) She finally does go back with help from a woman she is put in contact with. This woman is like no other women Cleofilas has ever met. While they are driving out of Seguin, going over the creek “the driver opened her mouth and let out a yell as loud as any mariachi. ” Cleofilas remembers this later and laughs; who would do such a thing? At that moment the woman in the creek was no longer hollering for pain or rage she was now hollering for freedom. In “Use” by Alice Walker the objects chosen to symbolize heritage, personal history and the conflict within the family are quilts.
The family we meet in “Use” is made up of three women. The mother who is hard working women “In real life I am a large, big boned women with rough, man working hands. ” (Walker 1) She knows she does not look the way her daughter Dee would like her to. The mother and Maggie are waiting for Dee to arrive. Maggie is a very self conscious girl who “thinks her sister had held life in the palm of one hand, that “no” is a word the world never learned to say to her. ” (Walker 1) When Dee arrives it is clear that she is in a costume, “A dress so loud it hurts my eyes.
Earrings gold, too, and hanging down to her shoulders. Bracelets dangling” (Walker 3) Dee is much more concerned with the outward appearance, although she would have you believe she wasn’t. She comes home for a visit and announces that she has changed her name. She no longer wishes to be called Dee “No Mama,” she says. “Not Dee,” Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo! ” (Walker 4) She has become part of the Black Power Movement while at college. “I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me. ” (Walker 4) Maggie and her mother do not understand this.
They do not feel oppressed, they unlike Wangero do not question who they are – – they just are. Wangero however seems to be putting on a show, like a performer. She comes home to visit and wants things out of the house. Things she feels represent her black heritage. “I knew there was something I wanted to ask you if I could have. ” (Walker 4) “This churn top is what I need,” she said “Didn’t Uncle Buddy whittle it out of a tree you all used to have? ” (Walker 5) She wants things from her mother’s house that to her represent her heritage her larger heritage, not a personal family heritage.
There is no sentimental longing in her wishes to own these objects. All the while this is happening, we don’t hear much from Maggie. She is hiding in the corner waiting for her sister to leave. Finally Wangero finds two quilts in her mother’s bedroom. “They had been pieced by Grandma Dee and then Big Dee and me had hung them on the quilt frames on the front porch and quilted the. ” (Walker 6) There is much family history in these quilts they are made out of clothes that Grandma Dee wore and even a patch of her Great Grandpa Ezra’s uniform from the Civil War. Mama,” Wangero said sweet as a bird. “Can I have these old quilts? ” (Walker 6) Her mother offers her a few of the other quilts that are in the house. Wangero does not want those, “No,” said Wangero. “I don’t want those. They are stitched around the borders by machine. ” (Walker 7) The quilts stitched by a machine are less authentic to her. She wants the “real thing” quilts stitched by hand. The quilts she is asking for have been promised to Maggie. Wangero can’t believe this, “Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts! ” she said. She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use. ” Wangero’s mother doesn’t seem to think there is anything wrong with that. After all shouldn’t you use quilts what else would you do with them? Maggie comes out of the kitchen and tell her mother “She can have them, Mama,” she said, like somebody used to never winning anything, or having anything reserved for her. “I can ‘member Grandma Dee without the quilts. ” (Walker 8) Maggie is used to Wangero – rather Dee getting everything she wants why would that change just because her name did?
Her mother will not allow this for once; Dee will not have her way. “I did something I never done before: hugged Maggie to me, then dragged her on into the room, snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero’s hands and dumped them into Maggie’s lap. ” (Walker 8) Wangero is not pleased with this but she accepts and leaves. Before leaving she tells her mother she doesn’t understand her heritage. “And then turned to Maggie, kissed, and said “You ought to try to make something of yourself, too, Maggie. It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you’d never know it. (Walker 8) Wangero thinks she is more in tune with black heritage, and can not understand why anyone would choose to live the life her mother and sister do. In turn, she is quite confusing to her mother and her sister they can’t understand why she needs such a production to “announce” her heritage. Coins, quilts and a creek, what do they have in common? In these three stories they are symbols of love and hate at the same time. They are symbols of what can be lost, but more importantly they are symbol of what can be recovered with time, forgiveness and understanding.