The Help is a
book written by Kathryn Stockett who was born in Jackson Mississippi. Kathryn graduated
from the University of Alabama, lived and worked in New York and currently
resides in Atlanta. The Help is her first novel which to her credit has been
made into a film.
The story is set
in the 1960’s and revolves around Caucasian American, Eugenia Phelan, commonly
known by her nickname Skeeter who, after finishing college, returns to live with
her parents in her childhood home in Jackson, Mississippi. On returning to the
community Skeeter reunites with her former school friends, many of whom are
married and striving to have an influential role in the small community. In particular
the character known as Hilly is full of self importance and has developed a
powerful role within the community.
In common with
the majority of families in Jackson, Hilly employs a black maid to care for her
child and undertake house work. Hilly has strong views about black people and maintains
that they are diseased and without morals. As a consequence of her negative
views Hilly starts a campaign promoting the idea that white families employing
black maids should have separate bathroom facilities. Skeeter is opposed to
this idea and at this stage she begins a journey of rejection by her friends
and community, self examination and development.
As the book
developed Skeeter begins to question her own, her families and her friends
prejudices and she decides to write a book about black women’s experiences as
maids. Skeeter struggles to find maids who will contribute to her book as many
are in fear of retribution if they tell the truth about their white employers.
plus they do not trust Skeeter because she is white. The maids feeling are further
reinforced by the trouble that is taking place in the community and the country
at large where reports of black people being beaten, killed and imprisoned are
not unusual. However Skeeter manages to enlist the help of Hilly’s maid,
Aibileen who is a strong woman who has cared for many white children throughout
her working life. Aibileen is willing to take the risk and as the two women
meet in secret a special relationship builds between them.
resistance from many of the maids Aibileen manages to recruit several who are
willing to talk to Skeeter and despite their concerns of violence and
imprisonment the book is completed and published. Although names are changed
and the writer is anonymous the community soon discover that it is about their
town and as a result there are various consequences both positive and negative
for all involved.
The Help is an
interesting, thought provoking and at times humouress book which is about
relationships, differences, fear, prejudice and change. The story has many
strong characters and whilst the main theme is about the writing of the book
there are interesting sub plots which provide insight into the various characters
personal circumstances and struggles.
Through her book
the writer has enabled insight into a community and the lives of the black and
white characters and although the first chapters are a little hard to get into,
mainly as a result of the writing technique she uses, it is an educational and