Study Guide

Joe in The Gilded Six-Bits

By Zora Neale Hurston


In "The Gilded Six-Bits" we get a pretty positive picture of Joe: he's a hard worker, he supports his wife, and he buys her presents. He even gives her cute compliments, like when they eat sweet potatoes and he says, "Ah don't want you to git no sweeter than whut you is already." (29) Come to think of it…does he have any single friends he can introduce us to?

It seems that all Joe thinks about is his wife—until the day that Otis D. Slemmons comes into town. Joe is temporarily blinded by the golden boy:

Ah know Ah can't hold no light to Otis D. Slemmons. Ah ain't never been nowhere and Ah ain't got nothin' but you. (43)

Otis is the exact opposite of Joe—from the north, a businessman with stylish clothes and lots of women— and hey, let's face it; new is exciting. For a few weeks Joe is obsessed, and wants to go to Slemmons' ice cream parlor so he can show Missie May off.

One fateful night, Joe comes back from work early and his dreams turn into wanting a baby with Missie May:

Creation obsessed him. (65)

He hurries home full of hope and love for the future and his wife. Not so fast, Mr. Joe. Unfortunately, the same night Joe realizes what he really wants out of life is when he catches Missie cheating on him with Slemmons. Joe's ego and feelings are really hurt, but perhaps it's partly his fault; after all, he planted the ideas in Missie's head that he wanted more money, right? Be careful what you wish for…

It takes a few months for Joe to lick his wounds and the situation is further complicated when he learns that Missie's pregnant. Naturally, it's not until she gives birth and his mother assures him that the boy is his can he forgive Missie and move on. At the end of the story he celebrates by going to Orlando to buy presents for his family, and when he's back home he throws silver dollars through the open door of their house. All's well that ends well.