Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Zora Neale Hurston’s intention in “The Gilded Six-Bits” is to counter the lingering“happy darky” stereotype by which African Americans were regarded in her time. Specifically, she refutes the clearly condescending attitude of the white store clerk at the end of the story who wants to be like the African Americans, apparently worry-free and always laughing. Such a perception is rendered ridiculous and absurd by Hurston’s story of the internal turmoil caused by an act of marital infidelity and the extraordinary efforts of Joe and Missie May to rekindle their love and save their marriage.
In addition, Hurston’s positioning Joe and Missie May in an edenic setting in the opening of the story, complete with bowers of blooms and glistening cleanliness, only to have Eden invaded and defiled by the serpentlike Otis D. Slemmons makes her message abundantly clear: If it can happen to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, why not to ordinary black people in Eatonville? Hurston advances this idea numerous times by insisting on human sameness even in the face of cultural differences.
Moreover, to make her point, Hurston wants there to be no mistake about the racial identity of her characters or the fact that her black characters’ day-to-day lives are affected only peripherally by whites. Because of this separateness, whites have little real knowledge about black lives that, on a human level, are little different from their own. Hurston would...
(The entire section is 416 words.)
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