The Gilded Six-Bits by Zora Neale Hurston, 1933
The magic trick:
Playing with racial stereotypes and notions of reality versus appearances; then verbalizing the theme through a character’s words near the story’s end
“The Gilded Six-Bits” opens with a scene of domestic bliss. Missie May and Joe are just the happiest of happy newlyweds. But soon they aren’t. Life is hard. Hurston is really playing with racial stereotypes here, forcing the reader to compare prejudice with reality, truth with appearances. Then she has a white character – the clerk – near the story’s conclusion make the point plain by missing the point. “Wisht I could be like these darkies,” he says. “Laughin’ all the time. Nothin’ worries ’em.” And that’s quite a trick on Hurston’s part.
Missie knew why she didn’t leave Joe. She couldn’t. She loved him too much, but she could not understand why Joe didn’t leave her. He was polite, even kind at times, but aloof.
There were no more Saturday romps. No ringing silver dollars to stack beside her plate. No pockets to rifle. In fact the yellow coin in his trousers was like a monster hiding in the cave of his pockets to destroy her.