The Gilded Six Bits

Sun and Moon Symbol Icon

Throughout the story, Hurston personifies the sun and moon in various ways, which symbolize the shifting seasons in the Banks’ marriage. Her use of these symbols is typically followed by a key moment in Missie May’s and Joe’s relationship. First, “the challenging sun” marks Joe’s ordinary routine—the reflection of the sunrise on the lake urges him home from his night shift each morning, where Missie May, “the best part of life,” awaits him. At the story’s climax, this routine is disrupted. As Joe walks home early to surprise Missie May, he is aware of “a lean moon [riding] the lake in a silver boat,” its beauty making him long for his wife and for children. This extraordinary sight captures Joe’s imagination, heralding a new chapter in his marriage, though it takes a different form than he anticipates. After he catches Missie May in infidelity, and the two spend a sleepless night considering what has happened, “the sun’s tide crept upon the shore of night and drowned all its hours.” With the appearance of the sun, Missie May is swept into the usual routine of tending to Joe’s needs. The arrival of dawn and its duties hints that, even at this low point in their marriage, the Banks’ love for one another will eventually prevail.  In the midst of their ensuing emotional estrangement, “the sun, the hero of every day…raced across the blue dome and dipped into the sea of fire every evening.” Here the sun symbolizes the couple’s new normalcy, with Missie May remaining steadfast, even as Joe remains aloof and the traditional Saturday romps disappear. After Missie May discovers that Joe has left her Slemmons’ fake coin and she nearly leaves him, “the sun swept around the horizon, trailing its robes of weeks and days.” This image symbolizes the passing weeks of Missie May’s pregnancy. At this point, Joe acknowledges his wife’s pregnancy, at the same time taking on a strenuous task for her (chopping wood). Even though infidelity still lies between them, this suggests a softening of Joe’s attitude toward his wife, which gives way to full reconciliation by the end of the story.

Sun and Moon Quotes in The Gilded Six Bits

The The Gilded Six Bits quotes below all refer to the symbol of Sun and Moon. 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

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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Sun and Moon Symbol Timeline in The Gilded Six Bits

The timeline below shows where the symbol Sun and Moon 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
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
...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 cream parlor... (full context)
Domesticity and Routine Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
One night, Joe gets off work early and walks home in the moonlight. The sight of the moon reflected on the lake touches his emotions, making him yearn... (full context)
Domesticity and Routine Theme Icon
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
The couple spends a sleepless night until “the sun’s tide crept upon the shore of night.” As dawn breaks, Missie May finds Joe’s presence... (full context)
Domesticity and Routine Theme Icon
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
Time passes, with the sun as “the hero of every day, the impersonal old man that beams as brightly on... (full context)
Appearances, Reality, and Trust Theme Icon
Money, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Sexuality and Marriage Theme Icon
...so, he comes home asking her to rub him with lineament. Some time later —“the sun swept around the horizon, trailing its robes of weeks and days”—Joe comes home to find... (full context)