The Gilded Six-Bits | Study Guide

Zora Neale Hurston

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Gilded Six-Bits Study Guide." Course Hero. 20 Dec. 2019. Web. 28 Jan. 2022. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2019, December 20). The Gilded Six-Bits Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2019)



Course Hero. "The Gilded Six-Bits Study Guide." December 20, 2019. Accessed January 28, 2022.


Course Hero, "The Gilded Six-Bits Study Guide," December 20, 2019, accessed January 28, 2022,

The Gilded Six-Bits | Themes


Money and Happiness

Missie May and Joe have a strong relationship full of love, laughter, and caring. They are perfectly happy until they meet Otis D. Slemmons, who appears to have everything they do not have: a money-fueled life of excitement and wealth. Joe envies the man's extravagant lifestyle, while Missie Mae envies his money. Joe moderates his envy for the man by allowing himself to feel superior in his ability to win Missie May as his wife. Missie May gives in to her envy, exchanging a sexual relationship for the promise of gold. The desire for money infiltrates their loving, happy relationship and threatens to destroy it. Once Joe and Missie May possess the gold coin, however, they realize that it is not even gold; the money that they thought would make them happy has only made them miserable.

Deceptive Appearances

Otis D. Slemmons presents a fine appearance with wealthy ornaments. His character is based on a façade—a false front. He wears expensive clothes over a soft, pudgy body and a cowardly soul. He shows off gold coins that turn out to be regular coins plated with gold. He tells stories of beautiful women paying for his company when in fact he must pay the beautiful Missie May for her company. Like his "gold" coins, Slemmons is not worth as much as he first appears. Both Missie May and Joe must learn this lesson the hard way. Joe is gullible at first, believing the man's stories and parading his wife in front of Slemmons to compete with him. Missie May does not believe the man is any better than Joe, but she believes in the false appearance of his coins. Both are deceived by falsehoods, and both must recover from their mistakes.

Love and Forgiveness

Missie May and Joe begin the story in a loving and fulfilling relationship whose strength and endurance is harshly tested. In the beginning of the story they are affectionate with one another, actively working to promote the other's happiness. Even when Missie May betrays Joe's trust by engaging in a sexual relationship with Slemmons, she does so for the benefit of her marriage; she believes that some gold would benefit her and Joe, as long as he does not know how she truly acquired it. She has already suggested that the two of them might find some gold on the road one day, foreshadowing a potential way of explaining how she came by the gold she intended to gain from Slemmons. Missie May does not have an affair with Slemmons because she is attracted to him or loves him. Her heart does not betray Joe. Likewise, Joe does not stop loving Missie May even when he is most angry with her; he tells her that she does not know how he feels, implying that he might still love her. He waits out her pregnancy, making sure that the baby she bore is truly his before he completely forgives her. Missie May and Joe's story raises questions about the power of love and forgiveness as well as about love's relationship to envy and greed. In the end, as Joe forgives Missie May once he knows the child is his, the reader is left to wonder whether the story would have turned out so happily if Slemmons had fathered Missie May's child. Would Joe's love for Missie May still prevail?

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Gilded Six-Bits? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!