The Gilded Six-Bits

by Zora Neale Hurston

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Does the working-class status of Missie May and Joe matter? Why or why not?

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In Hurston's short story "The Gilded Six-Bits," it is exceedingly important that Joe and Missy Mae are a working-class couple, as it is their position that prompts Missy Mae's choice.

If either Missy May or Joe were wealthy, Missy would not face the temptation of choosing between faithfulness to her husband and the lure of the gilded six-bits. Indeed, even when Missy May does sleep with Mr. Slemmons, she does so, arguably, for her husband's sake. She knows that the two of them need the money, and she sleeps with Slemmons when he offers gold. This occurs after her conversation with Joe about gold. Missy May tells him that he would wear gold more fittingly than Slemmons would and then suggests that they may happen across the gold on the ground.

While it is possible that Missy May truly hopes for such a coincidence to occur, it is equally likely that Slemmons has already propositioned her and that she is preparing a story for when she presents the gold to her husband. If the couple was not a working-class couple, Missy May would not need to sleep with Slemmons to acquire gold for Joe. Joe, like Slemmons, would already be decorated.

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