The Help” is a novel written by Kathryn Stockett. This is about coloured maids working for white people and how they are treated in the 1960s. This book focusses on a time when white people were thought to be superior and were segregated from the coloured people. Every two chapters Kathryn writes in the point of view of a different character, changing from the maid Aibileen Clark to her best friend Minny Jackson and then to the white lady Miss Skeeter. This novel portrays how young children are ignorant to their parents views of coloured people, Mae Mobley the young girl who Aibileen raised says “You my real mama, Aibi.” but then will most likely grow up to be just like her mother. Miss Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan does not agree with these views and with the help of Aibileen convinces others maids to be a part of her book and tell their story of being a maid; both good and bad stories. I personally would recommend this book as this is a very enjoyable story as it is not only educational learning about how life was compared to present times but also a very interesting read with humour and engaging language.
A very important quote in this book that is repeatedly constantly is, “You is kind. You is smart. you is important.” This is said by the maid Aibileen to the little girl she raises Mae Mobley. This quotes relates to the theme of self acceptance as Aibileen wanted to teach Mae Mobley to accept herself and love who she is even though her mother does not treat her like she is important and just brushes her off as a problem. I think this is sad that a mother hires someone to raise and love her own child and views her child as a chore rather than a blessing. After years of Aibileen looking after the little girl, Mae Mobley says, “You my real mama, Aibi.” which shows that children realise when their mother does not want them. This is still common in todays society, not hiring a maid to look after your children but ignoring them and them seeing someone else as their mother/ father figure. Readers may be able to relate to looking up to someone outside the family as their role model and will be able to understand Mae Mobley loving Aibileen like she is her “real mama.” This quote also relates to the theme of racism as children are metaphorically blind to a persons skin colour which I believe shows how pure a child is until they are taught the ‘right’ way of life. After Aibileen has raised 17 children and watched them grow up like their parents she watches Mae Mobley and thinks, “I want to stop that moment from coming – and it come in every white child’s life – when they start to think that coloured folks are not as good as whites.” This quote shows how she wants something to change which is motivation for her to help Miss Skeeter succeed in her book.
An important theme that is portrayed in this text is the theme of racism. This is mentioned many times throughout the text for example Miss Hilly wants to pass “A bill that requires every white home to have a separate bathroom for the coloured help.” which shows how she views the coloured people to be lower and explains how “They carry different diseases than we do.” which although this is not true this is what they believed. The readers can see how modern society has progressed since this time and although there are people today who still believe coloured people are inferior, it is not a widely shared view in comparison to the 1960s. I personally disagree with racism as I believe that skin colour should not define someone as person. I found this to be utterly cruel to build a separate toilet stating that all coloured people are “diseased” due to skin colour with no information or facts to prove this as it is not true. Aibileen does not believe humans were created different colours for them to be separate. This is shown through her thinking, “18 people were killed in Jackson that night. 10 white and 8 black. I don’t think God has colour in mind when he sets a tornado loose.” Many events occur in the texts resulting from racism such as a young coloured man was chased by two white men and beaten with a tire iron after he used a white bathroom by mistake. This shows how strict the segregation laws were and how there was no lenience even for seemingly small mistakes. The book is set in the same time that the Civil Rights Movement was most prominent. The movement was in place to end racial segregation and discrimination against coloured people. Officially the movement had six goals; meaningful civil rights laws, a massive federal works program, full and fair employment, decent housing, the right to vote and adequate integrated education. Modern society has developed since then, the biggest change is that coloured and white people are no longer segregated but live side by side.
This novel portrays many different themes rather accurately throughout the story and teaches the readers what life was like for coloured and white people. The readers can see through the character Mrs Celia Rae Foote that white people are not always accepted purely because of skin colour. Mrs Foote is a white lady who married because she got pregnant but later has a miscarriage which is followed by three more. This character portrays the theme of loneliness as all Mrs Celia wants is to be accepted by the other white ladies; Miss Hilly, Miss Skeeter and the rest of Bridge group but they brush off leaving her by herself in a large house with empty “creepy” bedrooms and no friends. She only has herself and her cooking lessons with Aibileen to keep her occupied. The quote, “Miss Celia stares down into the pot like she’s looking for her future.” shows just how lost and lonely she is. This novel teaches readers about life in the 1960s for different people. This also helps them be more grateful for the life they have and understand how much society has improved in some ways. Personally I learnt just how bad people got treated purely because of their skin colour and how cruel times use to be. The message readers can take from this book is that, “Ugly live up on the inside. Ugly be a hurtful, mean person.” and not to judge people from looks and what has been said about them.
Kathryn Stockett writes in first person but changes the character narrating the story every two chapters. Each character has a different way of speaking for example Aibileen speaks more land and abbreviated words whereas Miss Skeeter speaks proper and formally. This shows the writing skills of Kathryn Stockett. Personally i think this is a very smart way to get across the three main characters own opinions while keeping the readers attuned to each characters life and the different events occur in their separate lives. The novel is easy to understand for a year 12 student as although there is controversial themes, year 12 students will be exposed to these in their own lives. This book would be suitable for a Year 12 book club specifically due to the important themes such as racism, loneliness and self acceptance.