Hurstonâ€™s short story, â€œThe Gilded Six-Bits,â€ uses dramatic imagery to outline the healing of Joe and Missie Mayâ€™s connection through a symbolic gold coin. Hurston, â€œspares no expense when gracing the pages with her tremendously vivid imagery and animating the most static objectsâ€ (Lenil 1). A simple coin traces the process of a marriage as well as enlightens the reader with the idea that money, or the idea of an urban life, does not always mean happiness.
Joe and Missie Mayâ€™s original innocent happiness begins to detoriate when they become fascinated with Ottis D. Slemmon. Slemmon, a stranger in town, represents a new world of wealth and urbanity. Living on money given to him by white women in Chicago, Slemmon has eradicated the southern way of life in exchange for an urban class, which fascinates Joe. Slemmon covered in gold, as Joe describes, â€œHeâ€™s got a five-dollar gold piece for a stickpin and he got a ten ten-dollar gold piece on his watch chain and his mouf is jesâ€™ crammed full of gold teethâ€(Hurston 254), is no longer is a man, but rather a symbol. Through Joeâ€™s idolization of Slemmon, it is apparent that he wants to become part of this â€œwealthyâ€ new world. Although Missie May is first unimpressed when hearing about Slemmon, upon meeting him â€œSlemmonâ€™s gilded money captures Missie Mayâ€™s imagination when she sees it . . . she begins to speculate about how she and Joe could get gold of their ownâ€ (Chinn and Dunn 6). She imagines finding money and Joe easily sways her to think of money in a new way. Although she does not think Slemmon is very attractive, she reconsiders her priorities. Knowing that Joe wants the gold money and now unhappy with her modest life, Missie May sleeps with the relentless Slemmon for six bits. .
The significance of the gold changes when Joe catches Missie May and Slemmon together.