The Help: One Small Step for Woman, One Giant Leap for Society

A novel I read on the side. Made me tear up.

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[spoiler warning]

Thehelpbookcover

Kathryn Stockett’s The Help is a moving novel about small-town women in 1960’s Jackson, Mississippi, who band together to voice their opinions about the inequalities of blacks in southern society. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is a young white woman with aspirations to become a writer (just like our Lana Winters in AHS: Asylum!), but her mother scorns her dreams and instead wants to get her married. Aibileen Clark is a black maid who works for Skeeter’s friend Ms. Leefolt, and primarily cares for her daughter Mae Mobley (who frequently views Aibileen as her mother instead of Ms. Leefolt). The death of her 24-year-old son Treelore often weighs upon her. Minnie Jackson is Aibileen’s best friend and another black maid who works for Ms. Walters, the mother of the snobby and prim Hilly Holbrook, the ringleader of Skeeter’s group of rich girlfriends.

Skeeter, with distant, unanswered hopes of her own, sympathizes with Aibileen, Minnie, and the rest of the black maids’ situations after learning the truth about the disappearance of her own maid, Constantine, who had brought her up as a child, just as Aibileen currently does so with Mae Mobley. She realizes the unfair working conditions for African American employees, and convinces Aibileen and Minnie to team up with her and to embark a dangerous and ambitious project: to write a book about the suffering of black maids in Mississippi.

With her growing support towards racial equality, Skeeter begins to get ostracized by her friends, but continues to work on her interviews with Aibileen and Minnie nonetheless. They initially have trouble convincing other maids to contribute, but after witnessing Hilly’s maid Yule Male get arrested for stealing a ring to pay for her twin sons’ college tuitions, the maids agree to help with the book.

Eventually, the book gets published, albeit anonymously, and secrets of maids’ unfair treatments by their white employers are exposed. The book contains both positive and negative views of southern society, but becomes a huge hit. Many of the white women start to recognize themselves in the various stories. Hilly herself is furious after one embarrassing moment with Millie is exposed. The book, a national bestseller, gives a voice to the black maids of Jackson, and forces the community as a whole to reflect upon the inequality prevalent in their society.

The new book sparks changes within the three women as well. Empowered by it (titled The Help), Aibileen sets out to seek a new life after being fired by Ms. Leefolt, while Skeeter moves to New York City on a new job offer, and Minnie finally finds the courage to leave her abusive husband.

I often don’t cry when I read books, but The Help is one such novel that made me tear up towards the end. It is guaranteed to be a heartwarmer to anyone who reads it, and the three women’s boldness and strength is highly admirable. Unlike some books where the heroes of the plot have an unusual amount of audacity and wit, the characters of The Help are portrayed very realistically. For anyone looking for an inspirational novel to read while sick in bed, on the go, or purely for leisure, look no further than The Help. (It is also, perhaps, one of the few that also has a fantastic movie adaptation, with a wonderful, award-winning cast.)

Stockett reminds us that it doesn’t take much to create a change, and we don’t have to be anyone extraordinary to do it.While everyone have dreams, it takes true courage to pursue them– and that potential is within all of us.

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