English 109- Introduction to Fiction
The Effects of Wealth on Relationships in “The Gilded Six-Bits”
At the beginning of Zora Neale Hurston’s “The Gilded Six-Bits,” Missie May and Joe banks are a poor yet loving couple, perfectly content with their simple, wholesome lives, but all of this changes when the northerner, Mr. Otis D. Slemmons, moves to their small southern town. Everyone, including Joe and Missie May, become immediately captivated by this stranger’s life of women, wealth, and luxury. In her autobiography, Zora Neale Hurston says, “My interest lies in what makes a man or woman do such-and-so, regardless of his color. It seemed to me that the human beings I met reacted pretty much the same to the same stimuli” (Hurston, 206). In “The Gilded Six-Bits,” Hurston shows not only how wealth and greediness can destroy an individual or relationship, but also how out of character it may cause people to act. However, race also influences the character’s actions when the character Otis D. Slemmons brings his northern lifestyle to this poor, African American, southern community. Hurston uses Slemmons character as a metaphor of not just wealth, but white northern wealth. The introduction of Slemmons’s whiteness into this small African American community causes discontent and desire to lead a similar lifestyle.
“The Gilded Six-Bits” takes place in the 1930’s, around the time of the depression, when a majority of the nation was in need of money. At the very beginning of the story, it is apparent that Missie and Joe are far from wealthy. Although Joe has a steady job and Missie May is able to stay home and tend to the house, references in the story to Missie using “the clean meal sack” as a towel to dry off after bathing and “the
dollar clock on the dresser” make it apparent that they have only the necessities. The story begins with the couple engaging in a playful ritual that they go through every Saturday when Joe comes...