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The Gilded Six-Bits

By | April 2011
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Zora Neale Hurston was born on January 7, 1903 in Eatonville, Florida. She won a scholarship to attend the prestigious Barnard College, becoming its first black student. She got he B.A. in anthropology. Her memories of the self-segregated Eatonville community stayed close to her heart, leading her to oppose school desegregation in the 1950s, against the rising tide of the Civil Rights Movement. In “The Gilded Six-Bits” by Zora Neale Hurston, Hurston reveals a fundamental insight into human nature: that patience and forgiveness is learned and is a gift. Missie May and Joe Banks are newlyweds living in an all black community in Eatonville, Florida. They have a playful domestic relationship. One day, Joe brought Missie May to an ice cream parlor owned by Otis D. Slemmons from Chicago and from spots and places. Then one night, Joe got home from work early because of back pain and walks in on Missie May having an affair on him with Mr. Slemmons. After that night, Missie May and Joe grew apart until a couple of months later. He came home one night of horrible back pains and they “grew closer.” Six months later, Missie May gave birth to a child looking almost identically like Joe. Though the story promotes openness and forgiveness, it envisions this only by means of a return to the asymmetrical economic arrangement that is arguably what led to the problem in the first place: that Missie May is economically powerless without a man. (Hardy) In the story, “The Gilded Six-Bits” by Zora Neale Hurston, patience and forgiveness is learned. Joe forgave Missie May and gave her a second chance. “Missie May, ain’t you gonna fix me no breakfus’?” (Hurston) The morning after her betrayal, she is somewhat comforted when Joe asks her to make him breakfast and, later, when he succumbs to sleeping with her. (Hardy) “‘How did Missie May make out?’ he asked quickly.” But harmony is fully restored in the house only when she gives Joe a son—the ultimate symbol of her wifely value....
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