Review: ‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett

Choosing an angle which perhaps hasn’t been as represented in the fight for equality, Stockett’s novel looks at the help behind the powerful women in 1960s, and the small contributions each person made to the overwhelming Civil Rights Movement.

The dialect allows the novel to connect with the reader more readily: Stockett represents these characters to us in every way possible, from this to the inferred emotional states of each character. It allows us to gain an overview of the situation, alongside the individual perspectives we are privy to. Each vantage point is crafted to offer complete contrasts of opinions: Aibileen’s wise and respected council prompted by her excitement at fulfilling her son’s dream, Skeeter’s ambitious yet compassionate nature which tests her life’s entire structure, and Minnie’s sassy yet soulful rants against everyone, but especially those she loves most.

I think what resonates most in this novel is that Hillie’s still exist: there are still people seeking to keep others underneath them in order to pursue their own gains, something which translates across eras and political situations. What is important, therefore, is the message this book sends: even those considered behind-the-scenes, unnoticeable and unrepresented, are capable of creating a ripple effect that shakes a society to its core.

What I also appreciated were the origins and continuation of Skeeter’s character: she wasn’t ever portrayed as a Civil Rights sympathiser, although obviously the touching tales of the women she represented made her question her position within life; no, she remained the ambitious career girl breaking away from the limitations of Jackson. Stockett’s portrayal of a woman breaking away from tradition ran alongside the theme of freedom and equality: the costs of Skeeter’s ambitions are high, but her determination is higher still. It’s this dedication to her character which ties the novel together: her passion earns her the respect of Aibileen and the respect of Minnie.

I think what is also important here is that this isn’t preaching about equality: the emphasis on the positive stories and experiences shared by the ‘help’ in their interviews is crucial in showing that individuals were capable of kindness. Perhaps this is the strongest message of all: united, humans are a cruel force, but when singled out the barriers come down and emotions are allowed to rule over cultural concepts: no one knows this better than Hillie, the denier of the book when her pie incident is singled out.

What Stockett has achieved here, therefore, is a novel which shakes up belief systems without trying to: her messages are simple and interwoven with her characters lives, but she does not preach on behalf of society’s ills; they are displayed for us to examine, and come to our own judgments about. All Stockett provides is a little ‘help’ in understanding our world.

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