The Gilded Six-Bits

by Zora Neale Hurston

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Topics for Further Study

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  • What are Missie May's motivations for betraying Joe by sleeping with Otis Slemmons? Do you think Joe bears some of the responsibility for her mistake?
  • ‘‘The Gilded Six-Bits’’ can be understood as an exploration of different ideas of value. What are some of the different kinds of value that an object or person can have other than monetary value? What, in Hurston's view, is most valuable?
  • Hurston is famous for capturing the richness of African-American oral traditions in her writing. Hurston's characters speak in language that is full of metaphors. Identify as many metaphors as you can find in the quoted speech of the characters in ‘‘The Gilded Six-Bits.’’ How do these metaphors relate to the story's larger themes?
  • Do some research about all-black towns in the United States. Do you think that they are a good idea? How does Hurston's portrayal of one such community in ‘‘The Gilded Six-Bits’’ influence your opinion?
  • The Harlem Renaissance writers who were Hurston's peers often represented Northern cities as places of freedom and the rural South as tied to the oppressive past of slavery. Find some other short stories written by blacks during the Harlem Renaissance and describe their representations of the customs and values of the city versus the country. How do they compare to Hurston's in ‘‘The Gilded Six-Bits’’?

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