The Gilded Six-Bits | Study Guide

Zora Neale Hurston

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The Gilded Six-Bits | Character Analysis


Missie May

Missie May is a loving wife who maintains her home and her relationship with the same strength. She is not attracted to Otis D. Slemmons physically, but she is attracted to his money. She is tempted into cheating on her husband by the promise of a gold coin. When caught, she fears that her husband will not love her anymore, but she waits for his anger to pass. Missie May is determined to wait as long as there is a chance that Joe will return to her because she still loves him.


Joe Banks works at the fertilizer plant, earning a steady wage that supports his wife and the family he hopes to have. He is a loving husband who makes an effort to make his wife Missie May feel special and cherished. Joe is envious of the wealth and exciting stories of Otis D. Slemmons, who comes to town and shows off his wealth and lifestyle. Joe responds by showing off Missie May, feeling certain that she is one thing he has that Slemmons cannot have. His stable life is turned upside down when he finds Missie May in bed with Slemmons. Joe has difficulty letting go of his anger at Missie May for months, especially when he discovers that she is pregnant and is unsure of who the father is.

Otis D. Slemmons

Otis D. Slemmons is an ostentatious man who is new to Eatonville. He opens an ice cream shop upon his arrival to town. As he meets people, he shows off his fine clothes and the "gold" coins he wears as charms on his watch and lapel while telling stories of an exciting life full of money and beautiful women. Otis preys upon the gullibility of the people in his new town, passing off gilded coins as solid gold and paying his way into a sexual relationship with local women, including Missie May. When caught, Otis is too afraid to defend himself physically, instead relying on an offer of money to try to buy his way out of danger. Otis relies on money as currency in all matters and prioritizes appearances over substance.

Joe's mother

Joe's mother is a woman of opinions and strength. She loves Joe and wishes the best for him, even if she does not always support his decisions. For example, she tells Joe that she was worried Missie May would cheat on him. However, Joe's mother finds a grudging respect for Missie May after she delivers the baby boy. She notes that Missie May is strong and, despite her fears about Missie May's loyalty, has carried a son that looks just like Joe.

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