The Help

The Help

By Kathryn Stockett

The Help is a novel that chronicles the daily lives of women, mainly African American house maids, living in segregated 1960s Mississippi. The perspective shifts between Ms. Skeeter, a white, well-to-do college graduate who dreams of being a respectable writer and the women she is inspired to interview for a book about what it means to be a black maid/nanny for a white family, Minny and Abileen.

This book provides a new insight on America before the Civil Rights Movement had really changed people’s day to day lives, particularly those in the South. Stockett discusses the love between these women and the children they raise and the helpless feeling when those same children grow up to carry on their parents’ racist views and behaviors. The women were trapped in so many ways. They were forced to work for meager pay, mistreated at every turn, forced to use separate bathrooms, verbally abused, and if they did anything to upset their female employer, basically had slander campaigns launched against them and their families until everything was lost.

In the beginning, this book was a little tricky to get into for two reasons: so many female names to keep track of, and, one that took me awhile, a white, southern, privileged writer trying to write in the voice of an uneducated, black housekeeper. At times, it ventured into “yessa massa” territory- where it was almost too offensive to continue. But, if we understand this to be a sincere attempt at an accurate voice, we must put aside our current racial political correctness and go with the flow.

The story is captivating and had me feeling the tension and fear of whether or not this effort to write a controversial book about race in the south would result in a KKK visit. I came to genuinely care for the characters, even if there were sometimes too many to totally keep track of (side characters).

An issue would be that the BIG moments didn’t feel nearly as big as I think they were intended. I found myself having to go back numerous times, thinking, “Did I miss something?” -Only to find that a major thing happened but with such little build up that I read it without noticing a thing. Shit in a pie- what?!

Overall, I enjoyed this book and the overall message conveyed. As cliché as this sounds coming from a modern book about past injustice, The Help reminds us (mainly women but also people in general) that we really are all the same, save for a few different twists here and there. We are all flawed, we are all worth someone’s time and care, we are all weak, and we all have the capability to be stronger than we imagined

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