Discussion of Zora Neale Hurston's "The Gilded Six-Bits"

 Post your answer in the comments below. Make sure to include the number of the question you're answering and either cut and paste the question or answer in complete sentences so that we know which question you're answering.


A-2, B-3, C-4, D-5, E-6, F-7, G-8, H-9, I-10, J-11, K-12, L-13, M-1

If you have further thoughts or questions about the story, please feel to also post these below. 

13 Questions To Ask of Every Story: 

1.          What makes this story “literary”? 

 

2.          Why is this story considered one of the best stories of the past hundred years? If it’s an old story, why has it endured?

 

3.          Why do you think this story was considered one of the best / most iconic stories at the time of its publication? What made it a “successful” story?

 

4.          Plot: What is the “rich ground situation” (conflict) of the story? What happens to complicate this ground situation?

 

5.          Plot: What is the climax of this story? How does the moment irrevocably change everything?

 

6.          Character: In what ways does the writer show character?

 

7.          Character: In what ways does the character drive the action of the story?

 

8.          Point of view: Why do you think the writer chose this particular point of view for the story? How does the point of view function to establish distance or make us feel a certain way?

 

9.          Setting: How does the setting work within the story? What are the key places, and in how does the writer describe them?

 

10.      Pick three of the best lines in the story. Why are they good lines?

 

11.      Do a little bit of research on this author. Is this story a good example of his/her work? Is there anything else you learned that could add to our understanding of the story?

 

12.      What do you think the reader is supposed to take from the story? What can we, as writers, learn from studying it? 


13.    How is this story similar to others we've read? How is it different?


Comments

  1. 6. Character: In what ways does the writer show character?
    The biggest way that Zora Beale Hurston shows character in this story is from the way that they talk. Instead of saying something like, "Your the the one that does the sewing." He has the man say, " You de one dat pushes de needles round heah." Showing that they have a lack of an education as well as having Joe and Missy May talk to each other how most husbands and wives (or at least the ones I've known) talk to each other. Zora also shows character by saying that the Missy May hadn't touched her husband's body in three months. Saying that he works so much that they don't get to "connect" as often as they use to.

    -Michael

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    1. I agree. Dialogue is an absolutely essential part of how she shows the character--it tells us more than anything else.

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  2. 4. Plot: What is the “rich ground situation” (conflict) of the story? What happens to complicate this ground situation?

    The rich ground situation is a happy marriage between Missie May and Joe. They seem to have a perfect relationship and everything is going well for them. This is complicated when the rich man from Chicago moves in. He becomes a symbol of wealth (even though it isn't necessarily true wealth) and it causes both of the characters to long for that wealth. Missie May ends up sleeping with him for the gold piece and it causes a rift in their marriage that they have to deal with.

    -Bailey

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    1. Yes. Normally a rich ground situation would have a hint of conflict, but this one really doesn't, outside of a small sense that they don't have much money, but they seem to have enough that they are content.

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  3. 1) What makes this story “literary”?

    Overall, the way it explains the themes with how the characters interact with one another. The dialogue and the way the author set up each character is an important aspect of what is going on. Dialects and personas of each the characters makes the story incredibly interesting. Overall, the major theme which made this literary is it’s talk of Sexuality and Marriage, in how the relationship is both good and bad. The idea that Joe wants to be a parent, but Missy doesn’t exactly want that. There is also the comment near the end of the story. That might be seen as a negativeish ending to the story. That “Dat’s yourn all right, if you never git another one, dat un is yourn. And you know Ah’m mighty proud too, son, cause Ah never thought well of you marryin’ Missie May cause her ma used tuh fan her foot round right smart and Ah been mighty skeered dat Missie May wuz gointer git misput on her road.” Something which only adds to the intrigue that Morrison seems to portray. This idea of family, and marriage, and how a bad relationship doesn’t necessarily need to get better in a story.

    -Nicole!

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    1. I think you're right on the money to also point out that sexuality as part of the description of their marriage is part of what makes this literary. Neater, more traditional story of this time period would never have discussed this is such frank terms.

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  4. 11. Do a little bit of research on this author. Is this story a good example of his/her work? Is there anything else you learned that could add to our understanding of the story?

    A: Based on my research, this is a pretty solid example of Hurston's work; Hurston often wrote fiction centered on the African American experience. She also did a fair bit of research on hoodoo, a spiritual practice enslaved Africans in North America adhered to in secret ( I'm pretty sure this is what we would call 'voodoo' now). I thought that was a really cool concept to explore narratively.
    In addition, I can't be certain but I'm fairly certain the story is set in Eatonville, Florida. This is significant because Hurston grew up in Eatonville, and much of her work is set there. Eatonville was one of the first self-governing towns with an all-Black governing body in the United States.

    -Alec

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    1. I really liked the idea of all the stories basically set in the same place. I also liked what you had to say in class about this.

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  5. 1. What makes this story literary?
    More than anything, this piece focused on the characters of Missy Mae and Joe, and their relationship. Their actions drove the plot rather than them reacting to circumstances that happen to them. I think there’s also an intentionality to the piece that does a good job displaying the situation the couple find themselves in. The description of their play fight and the unspoken tenderness of Joe buying gifts solely so that Missy Mae can discover them when they wrestle is so poignant and sharp in establishing exactly what kind of relationship the two characters have, as is Joe’s haste to go in to greet her being tempered by his desire to brush off all the fertilizer so he can greet her properly. The characters are allowed to be flawed, and the ending is allowed to resolve itself in a way that doesn’t tie up every loose end. The ending is “happy”, and the characters reconcile, but there is still a sense that this will continue to be a point of contention for them moving forward—after all, Joe only was ready for reconciliation after his mother vouched that Missy Mae’s child was a spitting image of him. There are still some lingering trust issues there (not that I blame him). I think there’s also a level of care in portraying Missy Mae’s anguish and her guilt that sidesteps the simplistic “cheating wife is evil and cruel” that I think is common in a lot of writing. The arc of the story and the characters ability to both love and deeply wound one another gives a very honest look at relationships after trust has been broken, and allows for that conflict of how to move forward from there. Neither Joe and Missy Mae seem to want to end the relationship, but they’re frozen in place, unable to figure out how to navigate the situation they’ve gotten themselves into.
    -Cassie

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    1. Yes, the characters are so key. It would be easy to genre-fy this story, to cause it to feel more dramatic or idea-driven, but Hurston stays with the characters.

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  6. 12. What do you think the reader is supposed to take from the story? What can we, as writers, learn from studying it?
    I feel this story is supposed to show how people can cope with a rocky part in their relationship, and slowly heal. In the story after the incident neither Joe or Missy Mae left and decided to work on their relationship. Granted, it was a long process, starting with Joe asking Missy Mae for breakfast, then asking her to massage his sore back, and Joe held back any anger that would have pushed her further away. Overall, it's a story about how if you love a person enough the two of you can work through problems together.
    How the dialogue was written was sometimes hard to read, but as a writer this story is a good example of how to immerse your readers into a setting. If the characters were written without the accents then a bit of their character would have been lost. As well knowing what words or phrases people used in the time period makes the setting more believable. In the story if the main characters were saying things like that's cool or I'm absolutely shattered then it would be hard to believe in the characters and the setting.

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    1. Nice. I agree with both, that we can take something meaningful, for our lives, and also something as writers, like how to use setting and dialect.

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  7. 7. Character: In what ways does the character drive the action of the story?
    I like that I got questions about character with both of the first stories. The Anderson piece had vague characters that didn't even get names, and now this piece that has characters with such big personalities. I think character certainly drives this story, in fact, the first half barely has the characters do anything but interact with each other. The beginning does such a good job of setting up the two main characters. We see the love they have for each other as they banter and bicker. We can see how proud they are of each other as Joe wants to show off Missy at the ice cream parlor. We come to believe in this strong relationship so much, that we are just as devastated as the characters when we learn of the affair. The rest of the story is how these two deal with the aftermath of the incident. We see how even though Missy is the one who had the affair, her love doesn't really waver, but Joe does. We see Joe stick it out, because of the deep love he had for Missy. By the end, Joe spends the symbol of the affair he always carried with him, and we understand that he has forgiven Missy and let go of the past. It is their strength of character that gets them through their ordeal.
    -Logan

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    1. Yes, there are two character questions in a row on the list! You're right in that this story really makes us feel and connect with the characters. You can talk about characters, as in the actors that drive the story, and BIG C character, as int eh quality of one's character.

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  8. 13. How is this story similar to others we've read? How is it different?

    “Brothers” by Sherwood Anderson and “The Gilded Six-Bits” by Zora Neale Hurston are great short stories, but their writing styles differ considerably. In “Brothers,” Anderson does not put a lot of emphasis on introducing the characters— the narrator’s name isn’t even ever known. Although this story is told in the first person, there is a lot of distance between the narrator and the reader. The old man and the factory worker’s stories both, in many ways, overshadow the narrator’s story and contribution to the overall piece. It almost seems he is playing a supporting role within his own story. The story’s diction is also bleak and uses metaphors, such as the leaves’ falling, to express the sadness and loneliness the four main characters feel. However, in “The Gilded Six-Bits,” the characters and dialogue drive the story. It is told in the third person, but I felt much closer to these characters than those in the previous story. Because much of the beginning consists of Missy and Joe’s joyful banter, we get a greater sense of who these two characters are. The diction is also warm. The story begins with a pleasant description of Missy May and Joe’s home, with it’s “homey flowers,” “[blooming] cheerfully,” and “its door open to the sunshine.” I also thought it was important to note that while Joe wasn’t at all happy when he finds his wife with Slemmons, he laughs. The characters from both stories suffer, but how they deal with their suffering is substantially different.

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    1. You said pretty much exactly what I would say if asked to contrast the stories.

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  9. 8. Point of view: Why do you think the writer chose this particular point of view for the story? How does the point of view function to establish distance or make us feel a certain way?

    The third person point of view offers a look from an outsiders perspective, but by using Missie May's voice first we have a fun and almost playful atmosphere. This is especially apparent when her husband comes to throw the coins at her door. As the story moves on and she becomes pregnant, we see more of Joe's perspective and how he feels internally. I think a good example of how the point of view can make us feel distant is on the last two pages when Missie May has the baby and Joe is not acting how he normally would. His mother tries to ask why and tell him he should be proud, but he doesn't say anything and walks around aimlessly until he goes to work. By having it in third person, we feel the devastation of the affair from both perspectives which makes it feel worse than just receiving the news from one of the characters.

    -Taylor

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    1. I agree that choosing to start with Missy May and then kind of gravitate toward Joe was a good move on Hurtson's part. It makes us like and connect the characters early on.

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  10. 8. Point of view: Why do you think the writer chose this particular point of view for the story? How does the point of view function to establish distance or make us feel a certain way?

    I found the perspective of this short story very unique and impactful. The story started out from the perspective of the independent housewife Missie May, and shortly shifted to the perspective of Joe, her husband. At the beginning of the story, I felt that the POV of Missie May established familiarity, and comfort. Missie May in part, seemed to be the symbol of "home." When Joe comes home from work one evening and catches an act of adultery, the surprise is even more shocking because we as the reader were not inside Missie May's mind previous to this event. The remainder of the story is seemingly told from both perspectives, which is fitting because it shows the lengthly process of healing on both sides. The story ends with a denouement (new beginning) where Missy and Joe have regained their weekly ritual, and they have both evolved. I think that the authors choices were very artful, and they served to lead us along a multidimensional journey.

    - Elizabeth S.

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    1. Yes, third offers both sides of the story, which works for the story in the best possible way.

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  11. 2) Why is this story considered one of the best stories of the past hundred years? If it’s an old story, why has it endured?

    (I absolutely didn’t see that I had to respond to question 2, so please excuse my earlier post.)
    When looking to this work, I think the best instance of the reasons why it has held on are the themes that it uses. Because they are themes that will last on beyond what the world has to deal with. Especially one example was it’s talk of Sexuality and Marriage, in how the relationship is both good and bad. That might be seen as a negativeish ending to the story. As a whole the disconnect between the married couple, but also in their parents. Especially seen in the segment that “Dat’s yourn all right, if you never git another one, dat un is yourn. And you know Ah’m mighty proud too, son, cause Ah never thought well of you marryin’ Missie May cause her ma used tuh fan her foot round right smart and Ah been mighty skeered dat Missie May wuz gointer git misput on her road.” Something which only adds to the intrigue that Morrison seems to portray. This idea of family, and marriage, generally people can understand this, and the ease of access is what drives this response so well. People can generally understand mother/father's in law and if they don't like their child's choice

    -Nicole

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  12. 3. Why do you think this story was considered one of the best / most iconic stories at the time of its publication? What made it a “successful” story?

    The time frame in which this story came out speaks volumes to the current events of the time. The 'success' of this story best equates to the relevancy and topical nature of the segregation that encompasses the time period. The dependency on those with power by the characters of this story is reflective of those that are at the whim of a segregated world. The difficulties that were showcased by Joe and Missy are overshadowed by the racial and class limitations superimposed on them. A piece like this that contributed to the humanitarian issues of the time in a purposeful approach to a slice of contemporary life works wonders to contextualize how history ebbs and flows.

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  13. 5. Plot: What is the climax of this story? How does the moment irrevocably change everything?

    The climactic moment of the story occurs when Joe confronts the clerk with the gold-plated quarter. Before this moment, the piece of coin stood as a wall in Missy and Joe's marriage that was keeping them apart, but in this moment we see Joe break past that wall and eradicate it from the relationship by returning it to where it came from. Joe no longer plays the role of the victim and makes a decision that he wants to be a leader for his family and destroy the thing that's been tearing the family apart.

    - Ben

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    1. We didn't talk about this moment in class when we were talking about that, but I think you could be right. That does seem to be the moment that changes everything.

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  14. 10. Pick three of the best lines in the story. Why are they good lines?

    The first line from the story that stood out to me was told from Joe's perspective. "If anybody asked Joe about the moon on the lake, he would of said he hadn't paid it any attention. But he saw it with his feelings. It made him yearn painfully for Missie. Creation obsessed him" We were able to see the love between Missie and Joe through their playfulness at the start of the story, but this line displayed the pure love and devotion Joe has for his wife. This line made the next scene even more difficult because we were lead into it with Joe's love for his wife and left with their fallout.

    The next line told from Missies perspective displayed the marriage after Slemmons and her actions. Missie had decided to leave Joe after he left the gold pieces for her in the bed. But as she was walking away from the house she ran into Joe's mother, "If she had not the substance of marriage, she had the outside show. Joe must leave her." Joe's mother had not supported their marriage and prayed for it to fall apart. This line signifies a settle turning point in the story. Missie will not leave Joe, if not to concede defeat to his mother but because their is still love in the marriage even though it is not outwardly apparent.

    This line is at the very end of the story when Joe uses the gold coin from slemmons to buy Missie her favorite candy after child birth. After a conversation with the clerk about slemmons and his actions with the wives of the town Joe says, "gointer buy my wife some good ole 'lasses kisses wid it. Gimme fifty cents worth of dem candy kisses." By using the coin to buy his wife her favorite candy Joe was letting go of the resentment he had been holding onto. After this he leaves stuff on the porch like he did at the start of the story. Routine played a big role in the healing of their marriage, leaving stuff on the porch for Missie was a huge part of their routine and by buying her candies Missie and Joe can finally move on.

    -Zoe!

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    1. Good choices in lines, here. Please in the future try to post these before class begins. :)

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