Essay: Gilded Six Bits and Sonny's Blues

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¶ … Gilded Six Bits" and "Sonny's Blues": The value of money

Like many college students today, I have been thinking a great deal about money. How important should money be when evaluating the worth of something or someone? Zora Neale Hurston's short story "The Gilded Six Bits" is a dire warning about overvaluing money. In the story, a happy couple's life is nearly destroyed because the wife sleeps with a rich man named Otis D. Slemmons, in the false hope that the money he gives her will give the couple more financial security. In "Sonny's Blues," the poverty and desperation of the inner city means that the title character has no way to escape the life circumstances that make it almost impossible for him to flourish and grow. Read together, both illustrate the thesis that money cannot be ignored in terms of its importance, but nor can it dominate one's life to the point that a person loses his or her values. I will use the themes of both of these stories to guide me in the choice of my future occupation, and in my life.

Symbolism plays an important role in both short stories. In "The Gilded Six Bits," the flashy dress of Slemmons is what attracts the eye of Missie May and Joe: "He's got a five-dollar gold piece for a stickpin and he got a ten-dollar gold piece on his watch chain and his mouf is jes' crammed full of gold teeths" (Huston 4). When the story begins, the husband and wife are happy, but both of them covet the wealth of Slemmons, despite the fact that Missie is the best-dressed woman at the ice cream store where the two of them go once a week to parade their finery before the town. However, when Joe finds Missie with Slemmons, he is devastated. He punches Slemmons and chases the man away, but for a long time there is no humorous, light-hearted banter between the couple. Only after it is revealed that Missie is expecting a child does Joe begin to soften and forgive her and things return to normal. (the reason that Missie was unfaithful, Hurston implies, is that she wished to have a bit more money to support the coming child).

What makes the foolish decision of Missie even sadder is that Slemmons is a liar. The meaning of the title of the story "The Gilded Six Bits" derives the fact that Slemmons' gold is actually gilded. "It was a gilded half dollar. Then she knew why Slemmons had forbidden anyone to touch his gold. He trusted village eyes at a distance… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Gilded Six Bits and Sonny's Blues.  (2010, December 13).  Retrieved December 9, 2019, from

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"Gilded Six Bits and Sonny's Blues."  13 December 2010.  Web.  9 December 2019. <>.

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"Gilded Six Bits and Sonny's Blues."  December 13, 2010.  Accessed December 9, 2019.