The Gilded Six Bits

Otis Slemmons’ “Gold” Symbol Analysis

Otis Slemmons’ “Gold” Symbol Icon

Throughout “The Gilded Six-Bits,” gold (or gildedness) represents the way that covetousness and deceit challenge Joe and Missie May’s marriage. In the first half of the story, both Joe and Missie May are struck by Otis D. Slemmons’ gold teeth, the gilded jewelry he wears, and the gold money he claims to have. At this point, gilded objects represent status that is beyond their reach. Indeed, Missie May comments that she has never seen gold money before, and that their only hope of owning any would be to find some accidentally. This desire for wealth and status makes Missie May vulnerable to Slemmons tempting her to sleep with him by promising her his golden watch charm—it’s only after committing adultery that she discovers the charm is fake, which reveals the emptiness of the promises of wealth and status for which she has betrayed her marriage. After Missie May realizes it is a gilded half dollar, it is simply referred to as “the coin,” and Joe carries the coin in his pocket through the second half of the story. Now that Slemmons’ deceit has come between them, the object continues to haunt the Banks’ marriage, symbolizing Missie May’s choice to pursue something fake rather than being content with the genuine good she already possessed. After she gives birth, Joe spends the coin on a large helping of candy for Missie May—the prize in the couple’s abandoned weekly game. Now, the coin represents the exchange of something false for something real. Thus the gold disappears from their lives, and with it the temptation to desire what they do not have. In its place, they resume their old game, a celebration of the goodness of their marriage—one that has been tested and, unlike Slemmons’ gold, proven genuine.

Otis Slemmons’ “Gold” Quotes in The Gilded Six Bits

The The Gilded Six Bits quotes below all refer to the symbol of Otis Slemmons’ “Gold”. 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

“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:
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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:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“Hello, Joe,” the clerk greeted him. “Ain’t seen you in a long time.”

“Nope, Ah ain’t been heah. Been round in spots and places.”

“Want some of them molasses kisses you always buy?”

“Yessuh.” He threw the gilded half dollar on the counter. “Will dat spend?”

Related Characters: Joe Banks (speaker), Candy Store Clerk (speaker)
Related Symbols: Otis Slemmons’ “Gold”
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Otis Slemmons’ “Gold” Symbol Timeline in The Gilded Six Bits

The timeline below shows where the symbol Otis Slemmons’ “Gold” 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
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
...hat to her earlier, and that she did not recognize him, though she noticed his gold teeth. Joe is impressed by Slemmons’ fashionable clothes and heavy-set build, saying that Slemmons looked... (full context)
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
While the couple cuddles affectionately, Joe describes Slemmons’ gold jewelry and gold teeth—a five-dollar gold piece for a stick-pin and a ten-dollar gold piece... (full context)
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
...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 before, and she muses about the possibility... (full context)
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
As Missie May sobs, Slemmons pleads for his life, offering sixty-two dollars in gold money. As Slemmons considers escape, Joe just stands laughing, but before Slemmons can attack him,... (full context)
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
...yet. Missie May says that Slemmons had kept after her with the promise of the gold piece. Finally Joe tells her that she can stop crying, because he has gotten the... (full context)
Domesticity and Routine Theme Icon
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
...is devoid of the usual banter, and she weeps again when Joe places the yellow coin on the table between them. Joe calmly admonishes her, “Don’t look back lak Lot’s wife... (full context)
Domesticity and Routine Theme Icon
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
...and the pockets full of gifts are gone. Missie May suspects that Joe carries Slemmons’ gold piece in his pocket, but she cannot bring herself to ask him or to search... (full context)
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
...they have slept together again—“youth triumphed.” Missie May is triumphant, but then she discovers Slemmons’ gold piece under her pillow. (full context)
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
Missie May examines the supposed gold piece and discovers that it is only a gilded half dollar; Slemmons had counted on... (full context)
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
Returning the hated coin to Joe’s pocket, Missie May resolves to leave her husband. Shortly after leaving the house,... (full context)
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
Missie May sees the coin no more. Joe’s health is still poor, and every ten days or so, he comes... (full context)
Domesticity and Routine Theme Icon
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
...by saying that he has “been round in spots and places.” He uses Slemmons’ fake gold piece to pay for a large amount of Missie May’s favorite candy kisses. Though the... (full context)