The Gilded Six Bits

Missie May Banks Character Analysis

Missie May is the attractive, spirited young wife of Joe Banks. Together the couple lives in Eatonville, Florida, where Missie May takes pride in maintaining their modest but beautiful home, giving attention to small details. She also delights in cooking abundant meals for them to share. She relishes her role, calling herself “a real wife, not no dress and breath.” She loves Joe deeply, cherishes their playful routines, and is proud of his noble appearance. When Joe takes her to the ice cream parlor, Missie May shows her skeptical side by questioning Otis D. Slemmons’ charms, but she does find his self-proclaimed wealth appealing, even musing how she and Joe might discover gold of their own. At the story’s climax, Missie May sleeps with Slemmons, and when Joe discovers them, she is genuinely remorseful. She tearfully admits that Slemmons had offered her his gold piece, but that she still loves Joe. After Joe tauntingly leaves Slemmons’ gold piece under her pillow, Missie May is insulted by Joe’s insinuation that her love can be bought, and she plans to leave him. However, she again displays her stubborn pride when she decides to stay with Joe after seeing her mother-in-law, who has prayed for their marriage to fail. Not long after, Missie May is revealed to be pregnant. As she had predicted to Joe, she gives birth to a son who is the spitting image of him. With newfound respect, her mother-in-law calls her “strong as an ox” and expresses approval of the marriage. Not long after, Missie May joyfully reconciles with Joe.

Missie May Banks Quotes in The Gilded Six Bits

The The Gilded Six Bits quotes below are all either spoken by Missie May Banks or refer to Missie May Banks. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Domesticity and Routine Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperCollins edition of The Gilded Six Bits published in 1995.
The Gilded Six-Bits Quotes

It was a Negro yard around a Negro house in a Negro settlement that looked to the payroll of the G. and G. Fertilizer works for its support. But there was something happy about the place.

Related Characters: Missie May Banks, Joe Banks
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
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She had not seen the big tall man come stealing in the gate and creep up the walk grinning happily at the joyful mischief he was about to commit. But she knew that it was her husband throwing silver dollars in the door for her to pick up and pile beside her plate at dinner. It was this way every Saturday afternoon.

Related Characters: Missie May Banks, Joe Banks
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:
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A new man done come heah from Chicago and he done got a place and took and opened it up for a ice cream parlor.... Mister Otis D. Slemmons, of spots and places—Memphis, Chicago, Jacksonville, Philadelphia and so on.

Related Characters: Joe Banks (speaker), Missie May Banks, Otis D. Slemmons
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“His mouf is cut cross-ways, ain’t it? Well, he kin lie jes’ lak anybody else.”

“Good Lawd, Missie! You womens sho is hard to sense into things. He’s got a five-dollar gold piece for a stick-pin and he got a ten-dollar gold piece on his watch chain and his mouf is jes’ crammed full of gold teethes…And womens give it all to ‘im.”

Related Characters: Missie May Banks (speaker), Joe Banks (speaker), Otis D. Slemmons
Related Symbols: Otis Slemmons’ “Gold”
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

That was the best part of life—going home to Missie May. Their white-washed house, the mock battle on Saturday, the dinner and ice cream parlor afterwards, church on Sunday nights when Missie May out-dressed any woman in town—all, everything was right.

Related Characters: Missie May Banks, Joe Banks
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
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As Joe rounded the lake on his way home, a lean moon rode the lake in a silver boat.... It made him yearn painfully for Missie. Creation obsessed him. He thought about children. They had been married more than a year now. They had money put away. They ought to be making little feet for shoes.

Related Characters: Missie May Banks, Joe Banks
Related Symbols: Sun and Moon
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
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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.

Related Characters: Missie May Banks, Joe Banks
Related Symbols: Otis Slemmons’ “Gold”
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Before morning, youth triumphed and Missie exulted. But the next day, as she joyfully made up their bed, beneath her pillow she found the piece of money with the bit of chain attached…She took it into her hands with trembling and saw first thing that it was no gold piece. It was a gilded half dollar.

Related Symbols: Otis Slemmons’ “Gold”
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:
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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.

Related Characters: Joe’s Mother (speaker), Missie May Banks, Joe Banks
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:
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Back in Eatonville, Joe reached his own front door. There was the ring of singing metal on wood. Fifteen times. Missie May couldn’t run to the door, but she crept there as quickly as she could.

“Joe Banks, Ah hear you chunkin’ money in mah do’way. You wait till Ah got mah strength back and Ah’m gointer fix you for dat.”

Related Characters: Missie May Banks (speaker), Joe Banks
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Missie May Banks Character Timeline in The Gilded Six Bits

The timeline below shows where the character Missie May Banks appears in The Gilded Six Bits. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Gilded Six-Bits
Domesticity and Routine Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
Missie May is taking a bath in the bedroom. Her dark skin glistens, and her “stiff young... (full context)
Domesticity and Routine Theme Icon
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
Missie May appears at the door “in mock alarm” and demands to know who has tossed the... (full context)
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As they recover from their play-fight, Missie May urges Joe to bathe and dress as well, teasing him, “Ah’m a real wife, not... (full context)
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As they finish their supper, Joe reveals that he is taking Missie May to the town’s newly opened ice cream parlor, and the two discuss its proprietor, a... (full context)
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
...piece on his watch chain—which Slemmons claims were given to him by women in Chicago. Missie May is skeptical of Slemmons’ stories and disappointed in Joe’s gullibility (“he kin lie jes’ lak... (full context)
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
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...has taught them. (“Dat wife of yours,” Slemmons tells Joe, “is jes’ thirty-eight and two.”) Missie May , meanwhile, is preoccupied by the gold Slemmons wore. She has never seen gold money... (full context)
Domesticity and Routine Theme Icon
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
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...settles into a happy routine. The best part of Joe’s life is returning home to Missie May at sunrise after his night shift, enjoying their mock battle on Saturdays, visiting the ice... (full context)
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Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
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...sight of the moon reflected on the lake touches his emotions, making him yearn for Missie May . He reflects that they have been married for more than a year and have... (full context)
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Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
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Joe slips into the house in hopes of surprising Missie May , but when he knocks something to the floor, he hears a gasp and loud... (full context)
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
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As Missie May sobs, Slemmons pleads for his life, offering sixty-two dollars in gold money. As Slemmons considers... (full context)
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Missie May continues to weep. Joe is overcome with emotion for a while, then has a good... (full context)
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...sleepless night until “the sun’s tide crept upon the shore of night.” As dawn breaks, Missie May finds Joe’s presence and voice “strange” and despairs for her marriage, but when Joe asks... (full context)
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Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
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...every day, the impersonal old man that beams as brightly on death as on birth.” Missie May still loves Joe and cannot leave him. The Banks’ marriage remains outwardly intact, but it... (full context)
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One night, some three months after Missie May ’s infidelity with Slemmons, Joe comes home from work with back pain. Missie May rubs... (full context)
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Missie May examines the supposed gold piece and discovers that it is only a gilded half dollar;... (full context)
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Returning the hated coin to Joe’s pocket, Missie May resolves to leave her husband. Shortly after leaving the house, however, she encounters her mother-in-law.... (full context)
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Missie May sees the coin no more. Joe’s health is still poor, and every ten days or... (full context)
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Almost six months later, Missie May goes into labor and gives birth to a healthy boy. Joe comes home from work... (full context)
Domesticity and Routine Theme Icon
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...and places.” He uses Slemmons’ fake gold piece to pay for a large amount of Missie May ’s favorite candy kisses. Though the clerk suggests buying a wider selection of candy, Joe... (full context)
Domesticity and Routine Theme Icon
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Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
Returning home, Joe tosses fifteen coins at his front door. Missie May , still recovering from childbirth, makes her way slowly to the door. She teases Joe... (full context)