Style and Technique

By the time Hurston wrote and published “The Gilded Six-Bits,” she had clearly mastered the short-story genre. This story was her last published short work before she turned to the novel as her preferred genre. Its length, greater than many of her other stories, suggests she was ready to tackle a longer narrative. In this story, Hurston provides an adequate exposition of the facts and then spends most of her time examining the complex realities of the aftermath of the marital betrayal. As usual, she is adept at portraying the emotional responses of both the male and female protagonists, a skill not often recognized by her critics.

As with all of her works, Hurston approaches “The Gilded Six-Bits” with much regard for her setting, her characters, and her subject matter. Therefore, while she foregrounds the black folk, she does so with care and compassion that underscores her ability to portray them in a realistic fashion. Dialect and colorful turns of phrase are used to illuminate character and culture but are never used to condescend to or condemn. Although the events in the story run the gamut from comic to tragic, Hurston uses this range of emotions to further her argument that such responses are human and common, even in the lives of black folk. On another level, the reader can readily ascertain Hurston’s fascination with the culture of black folk, as seen, for example, in Missie May’s adornment of her kitchen and her garden in a way that becomes an important aspect of Hurston’s cultural theory of the African American’s desire to adorn.

Historical Context

Eatonville, Florida
‘‘The Gilded Six-Bits’’ is set in Eatonville, Florida, which was the first incorporated...

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Literary Style

Hurston begins the story with description of its setting that uses the same adjective repetitively: ‘‘It...

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Compare and Contrast

  • 1930s: The U.S. economy suffers from a crippling economic depression. Older industries, such as the automotive,...

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Topics for Further Study

  • What are Missie May's motivations for betraying Joe by sleeping with Otis Slemmons? Do you think Joe bears some of the responsibility for...

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Media Adaptations

  • ‘‘The Gilded Six-Bits,’’ read by Renee Joshua-Porter, is included on an audiocassette entitled Stories by Zora Neale...

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What Do I Read Next?

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Bibliography and Further Reading

Burris, Andrew. Review, reprinted in Zora Neale Hurston: Critical Perspectives, Past and Present,...

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(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Awkward, Michael, ed. New Essays on “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Boyd, Valerie. Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Scribner, 2003.

Campbell, Josie P. Student Companion to Zora Neale Hurston. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001.

Croft, Robert W. A Zora Neale Hurston Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Cronin, Gloria L., ed. Critical Essays on Zora Neale Hurston. New York: G. K. Hall, 1998.

Grant, Nathan....

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