The Gilded Six-Bits

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Freedom Through Speech
African American stories, before the period of “The New Negro”, commonly concern themselves with slavery and personify people of African descent in America in a dreadful and demeaning manner. Zora Hurston, from the Harlem Renaissance, paints a different picture in a different era of what it means to live in America as an African American. Hurston shows her audience a transition in the lifestyle of African Americans going from poverty and depression to a period of joy and humor. In Hurston’s short story “The Gilded Six-Bits”, a particular scene towards the beginning exemplifies the superb life quality of African Americans in “The New Negro” era through the use of language.

Hurston opens the story with a scene in which the two main characters playfully wrestle each other, “Missie May, take yo’ hand out mah pocket! Joe shouted out between laughs. Ah ain’t, Joe, not lessen you gwine gimme whateve’ it is good you got in yo’ pocket. Turn it go, Joe, do Ah’ll tear yo’ clothes”(Hurston 883). The language here contributes to the overall effect Hurston wants which is a comical, playful, and happy environment. Using “yo’” instead of “your”, “mah” instead of “my”, and contractions such as “ain’t” and “Ah’ll” exemplify a lack of seriousness and a sense of humor between the two characters. When spoken out loud, some of these words sound quite funny. If Hurston just said, “take your hand out of my pocket” instead of “take yo’ hand out mah pocket”, it would seem serious. The way Hurston uses the vernacular of the era in this phrase gives the effect of comedy and creates an entirely different meaning than if spoken normally. Furthermore, the lack of seriousness from Hurston’s diction gives an impression of a carefree or problem less situation. When Missie May threatens Joe that she will tear his clothes off finds itself, perhaps, a better example of humor. Joe counters with “Go on tear ‘em. You de one dat pushes de needles round heah”(Hurston 883)....
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