The Help: A story of standing up for your beliefs
February 4, 2011 1 Comment
I was introduced to The Help at a dinner with friends one night. A couple of my friends had read it, and seemed like they were really moved, so I made a point to remember it. Eventually I had a gift card to Chapters, so I decided to make the purchase, though I don’t normally buy hard covers.
When I got around to reading it, I didn’t really know what to expect, other than it was set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 60s and that it dealt with race, class and so-forth. After reading the first chapter, which started off in the voice of Aibileen, a maid, I was hooked.
It took a bit of getting used to when I found it was telling the stories from three different characters perspectives. Each one, and the others were Minny (another maid) and Skeeter (a white daughter of a plantation farmer), shone with personality and were all strong female characters, but also had weaknesses as well.
The book deals with the very real problem of segregation in Jackson, as Skeeter goes about recounting the experiences from the help of Jackson. It’s really sad to read the many unfortunate things that African Americans lived with on a daily basis. Rules these maids had to abide by, like not sit at the same table as a white person, shake their hand or look them in the eye, because if it was the wrong time of day, you could set the boss off and next thing you know you’re on the street, struggling to find the next household to take you in.
Similar to what the show Mad Men often does, The Help also entwines major news headlines of the day into the story. Obviously with the time and topic, Martin Luther King Jr. plays a big role in the motives of the characters. There is also talk of space exploration, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, The Sit-ins, and so on. Stockett did a great job at weaving these in, adding tidbits of historical information in the background, making it much more real.
I’m not an expert on race relations in the 60s, but I think Stockett offers a great viewpoint into what it was like. As a white woman, I’m sure she’ll get some criticism for attempting to portray what those women went through, but I think she did a hell of a job. It can also come across as a Pocahontas or Avatar-like story where the white woman helps out the poor unfortunate maids to see their own strength, but I felt throughout the book the characters were casting off any kind of pity they perceived from Skeeter; they were stronger than that, and worked with her out of their own wants and needs.
I think I’ve explained this one enough. If you’re not enticed to read this one, then you never will be. If you have already read The Help please share your thoughts. It’s such a great discussion book.
.. Oh and of course I give this one a 5/5.