Study Guide

The Gilded Six-Bits Summary

By Zora Neale Hurston

The Gilded Six-Bits Summary

"The Gilded Six-Bits" begins with a snapshot of Eatonville and the house where Missie May and Joe live. When we're first introduced to Missie May, she's bathing herself in the tub. She realizes it's getting late and that her husband, Joe will be home soon: "Joe gointer be heah 'fore Ah git mah clothes on if Ah don't make haste." (6) Before she can get her slippers on Joe comes home and they play fight, a ritual that takes place every Saturday.

After some cute roughhousing, Joe cleans up and they sit down for a spread of southern goodies. Joe announces he wants to take Missie out for ice cream, a new place run by a rich, northern African-American man, "Mister Otis D. Slemmons, of spots and places." (35) Like a school kid with a crush, Joe can't stop talking about Slemmons. Joe and Missie go to the ice cream parlor several times and Missie happily plays trophy wife. Unfortunately, the story takes a disastrous turn when Slemmons starts chasing after her, promising money in exchange for sex.

One night after getting off work early, Joe discovers his wife in bed with Slemmons and his happy home turns sour. Joe becomes cold and distant, until he realizes Missie is pregnant. Of course, the question is, who's the daddy? Not until the end do we find out and when we do, we're able to breathe a huge sigh of relief—and so can Joe.