The Help in Review
Stockett uses characters that have probably been in development for the whole of the author’s life. These are people Stockett’s known, or currently does. The local color, the diction, every word choice was perfect. I could hear every voice. Each personality became real; these are people who might exist in our personal lives.
Having three dramatically different women: Skeeter, Minny, and Aibileen, tell the shared narrative leaves the novel structurally sound. Nothing feels left out. Each of the women brings her own opinions, past personal experience, on-going personal dilemmas of: motherhood, abuse, loss, and life’s transitions. Each narrator shows off her talents for observation, leaving every character (minor or otherwise) complete, literally 3-dimensional.
Two-Slice-Hilly is projected by all three authors as mean, manipulative, self-righteous, a total stereo-typical-southern-bigot racist, power-hungry, controlling, and the absolute bitchiest product of the era. Ironically Hilly is also and attentive, loving, a genuinely affectionate mother. Aibileen takes notice, noting Hilly kissing and reminding her children just how must she loves them while the children swim in the Mississippi heat. We have to ask if this quality is actually redeeming. No one is without fault; therefore can anyone be solely evil?
Aibileen shows this tender moment to contrast the absence of love between Elizabeth and her own daughter Mae Mobley. To Elizabeth, Mae Mobley is an inconvenient, but necessary accessory to her well-groomed appearance as a model southern woman, wife and mother. Aibileen is Mae Mobley’s surrogate mother, who cares and more importantly loves her like her own. Hilly could never manage any capacity for something or someone who wasn’t totally her own.
The Help is a novel about challenging societal expectations, and self-expectation, despite the consequences brought about by others, and the ever present and very real danger of “going against the grain”. For the reader Stockett challenges our sense of flaw and sympathy. Stockett indirectly forces us to ask ourselves if we would have the nerve.A book worth reading reaches beyond the cliché of asking reader’s to imagine ourselves in the character’s situation, or if we’d perform as they do. Specifics matter. We work to identify the many characteristics which made Skeeter’s, Minny’s, and Aibileen’s project so successful: we have to identify what qualities we already possess and recognize the possibilities, the power available if we dare to use it.