Study Guide

Otis D. Slemmons in The Gilded Six-Bits

By Zora Neale Hurston

Otis D. Slemmons

Mister Otis D. Slemmons, of spots and places—Memphis, Chicago, Jacksonville, Philadelphia and so on. (35)

From the minute we meet him, we can tell that Slemmons has an air of importance to him; he's one of those guys every girl wants to be with and every guy wants to be. Joe is enamored with the smart dressing, slang spitting, and seemingly wealthy man:

Wisht Ah had a build on me lak he got. […] Dat make 'm look lak a rich white man. All rich mens is got some belly on 'em. (41)

Slemmons may have a big belly on him, but he's got a super small conscious. He sleeps with Missie May without a second thought, and he pleads for his life when Joe catches them in the act:

Please, suh, don't kill me. Sixty-two dollars at de sto'. Gold money. (72)

In the end, Slemmons is a good example of why we shouldn't take everyone at face value. Sometimes a gold coin, after all, is just a gilded six-bit, and sometimes people try to appear to be much more than they actually are.