Zora Neale Hurston's ‘‘The Gilded Six-Bits’’ was published in Story magazine in 1933, when Hurston was a relative newcomer on the literary scene. The well-known publisher Bertram Lippincott read the story and liked it so much that he wrote to Hurston and asked if she was working on a novel. She wasn't, but eager for a book deal, she told him that she was, and three months later presented him with the manuscript of her first novel, Jonah's Gourd Vine.
Hurston, a noted talent and personality of the cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance went on to greater success with the publication of her second novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, in 1937, but later fell into obscurity and eventually died in poverty. Though it was pivotal to her career, ‘‘The Gilded Six-Bits’’ was not reprinted until renewed scholarly interest in Hurston led to the publication of a compilation of her short stories, entitled Spunk, in 1985. It is now considered one of Hurston's best stories.
‘‘The Gilded Six-Bits’’ is a story of love, betrayal, and forgiveness. It playfully portrays the happy domestic life of two young newlyweds and shows the havoc that is wreaked when a slick and sophisticated outsider comes into their community and into their home. The story is typical of Hurston's fiction in that it offers a positive and affectionate vision of African-American life, that it is set in her native town of Eatonville, and that it reflects the rich oral traditions of that community. ‘‘The Gilded Six-Bits,’’ rich in metaphor and melodious dialect, is a meditation on the meaning of value and a celebration of emotional resilience and integrity.