How does Hurston's "The Gilded Six-Bits" parallel the Garden of Eden story (paradise story) in the Bible?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Numerous similarities exist between the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible and the story of Missie May and Joe in Zora Neale Hurston’s short story “The Gilded Six-Bits.” Among those similarities are the following:

  • Just as the biblical story of Adam and Eve begins by emphasizing the garden in which they live (Genesis 2:8-9; King James Version) so Hurston begins “The Gilded Six-Bits,” by emphasizing the natural beauty surrounding the home of Joe and Missie May:

A mess of homey flowers planted without a plan but blooming cheerily from their helter-skelter places.

  • Just as the biblical story mentions that Adam and Eve were not ashamed of their nakedness (Genesis 2:25), so Hurston, without flinching, describes the bathing, naked Missie May.
  • Just as the biblical story features a subtle tempter (Genesis 3:1) who tempts Eve, so Hurston’s story features another subtle tempter – Otis D. Slemmons.
  • Just as the temptation of Eve in the Bible results in a kind of shame (Genesis 3:7, 10), so a similar transformation occurs in the story of Joe and Missie May.
  • Just as God punishes the serpent for tempting Eve by making him crawl on his belly, so Joe punishes Slemmons by knocking him to the ground:

Slemmons was knocked a somersault into the kitchen and fled through the open door.

  • In the Bible, Eve, after the fall, is told by God that “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Similarly, in Hurston’s story, Joe definitely has power over Missie May after her transgression, and her only desire at that point is to please him.
  • After the fall in the Bible, Eve becomes pregnant and delivers a son (Genesis 4:1). A similar pregnancy and birth occur in Hurston’s story.

Many more similarities exist between Hurston’s story and the Biblical story as it is recounted in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. However, despite the similarities between the Bible’s account of Adam and Eve and Hurston’s account of Joe and Missie May, numerous differences also exist between the two stories, and these differences may be at least as important as (if not more important than) the similarities.

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