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
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.