Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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.