English Literature
The Help Kathryn Stockett

The Help Kathryn Stockett

Shiken premium Upgrade Banner

The Help: A Story of Friendship and Social Injustice in the Segregated South

Kathryn Stockett's 2009 novel, The Help, is a powerful depiction of life in the segregated South during the 1960s. Through the eyes of three women - Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan, Aibileen Clark, and Minny Jackson - the reader is transported to a world where racial inequality and discrimination are rampant.

Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny each have their own unique struggles in a society deeply divided by race. Aibileen and Minny, both African American maids, endure daily injustices while working for white families. Their stories, along with Skeeter's, became a bestseller and were later adapted into a successful film in 2011.

Content warning: This article discusses the experiences of African Americans during a time of segregation in the 1960s. Some of the language used may be considered offensive to some readers.

The Setting and Context of The Help

The Help is set in Jackson, Mississippi between 1962 and 1964, a time when racial segregation was deeply entrenched in American society. This segregation manifested in various ways, from separate housing and schools to public spaces and facilities. This discriminatory system particularly targeted people of color, especially African Americans, and was legitimized by the Jim Crow Laws that enforced segregation in the South.

The Story and Characters of The Help

The Help is narrated in the first person by Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny in alternating chapters. Skeeter, a privileged white woman in her twenties, returns to Jackson after college and lives on her family's cotton plantation - a stark symbol of the racial divide in the city. It's worth noting that this plantation was once home to black slaves, although slavery was now outlawed.

Driven by a desire to write about something meaningful, Skeeter decides to explore the lives of black maids in Jackson after getting to know Aibileen, who works for her friend Elizabeth's family. Elizabeth's neglect leaves her daughter Mae Mobley in Aibileen's care, and Aibileen's fellow maid, Minny, also works for another close friend of Elizabeth's, Hilly Holbrook. Hilly is a staunch supporter of segregation and even advocates for a law requiring every white household with black servants to have an outdoor toilet. Skeeter, however, openly opposes her views.

Fearless and outspoken Minny has lost many jobs due to her refusal to tolerate mistreatment. She primarily cares for Hilly's elderly mother but is forced to find a new job when the mother goes to a nursing home. However, Hilly's false accusations of theft make it challenging for Minny to find work. In a clever act of retaliation, she bakes a pie containing her own excrement and secretly serves it to Hilly.

Skeeter's Quest for Truth

Skeeter's pursuit of the truth about the lives of black maids in Jackson leads her on a journey of self-discovery and revelations. She starts by writing a column on housekeeping for the local newspaper, despite her lack of knowledge on the subject. With Aibileen's help, she eventually decides to write a book based on the experiences of the maids.

This idea is sparked by three things - learning about a book Aibileen's son was writing before his death due to poor working conditions, reading about the discriminatory Jim Crow Laws in the library, and Skeeter's personal connection to her childhood maid and dear friend, Constantine.

As Skeeter delves deeper into the lives of Aibileen, Minny, and other black maids, she uncovers the harsh realities of their daily struggles and the injustices they face. She also learns about the mistreatment of Constantine by her own mother before her death, which deeply impacts her and inspires her to take action.

A Tale of Friendship, Empowerment, and Justice in Kathryn Stockett's 'The Help'

'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett tells a powerful story of friendship and determination amidst the deeply rooted issues of racial inequality and segregation in 1960s America. The novel follows the journey of three women - Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny - as they join forces to challenge the status quo and give a voice to those who were often silenced and marginalized.

Skeeter, a young white woman, sets out on a mission to write a book that exposes the truth about the injustices faced by black maids in Jackson, Mississippi. With the help of Aibileen, a wise and empathetic maid, and Minny, a bold and resilient woman, they form an unlikely friendship that is fueled by their shared experiences and a strong desire for justice. Together, they use their individual strengths - Skeeter's writing skills, Aibileen's wisdom, and Minny's boldness - to create a transformative and poignant book that sheds light on the plight of black maids in their community.

Aside from the powerful bond of solidarity between the black maids, 'The Help' also showcases a rare and positive relationship between a white employer and a black maid. Minny works for the Footes, a white family who treats her with kindness and respect, making her an integral part of their household. This stark contrast to the discriminatory attitude of Hilly Holbrook, Skeeter's childhood friend who sees maids as 'unclean,' highlights the impact of empathy and understanding in bridging the racial divide.

The novel is filled with intense confrontations between the three protagonists and Hilly, who relentlessly tries to sabotage their efforts. Despite facing numerous obstacles, Skeeter's book - aptly titled 'The Help' - is published and causes a stir in their community. Hilly's desperate attempts to deny the book's origins in Jackson come to an end when she realizes that Minny has exposed her infamous excrement pie incident, damaging her reputation irreparably.

In the face of adversity, Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny remain steadfast in their pursuit of justice. They bravely speak the truth and seek retribution for the injustices they have faced. Their courage and determination eventually lead to positive outcomes, with Minny finding a new job with the Footes and Aibileen being offered to write a housekeeping advice column. These acts of solidarity and support not only bring about justice for the maids but also empower them with newfound opportunities and a brighter future.

Exploring the Themes and Genre of 'The Help'

'The Help' is a historical fiction novel that offers a glimpse into a dark period in American history. It was written in 2009, drawing inspiration from Stockett's own experiences growing up in the South during the 1960s and her family's employment of an African American maid.

Analysis of 'The Help'

Themes of Racial Inequality and Stereotypes

The novel delves into the prevalent issue of racial inequality and segregation in the 1960s, highlighting the struggles faced by African Americans in a society that viewed them as inferior. This is exemplified through Hilly's bill and the Jim Crow Laws that legalized racism and discrimination. The maids not only had to fight for their rights but also against the law itself.

'The Help' also sheds light on the damaging stereotypes held by many white characters, including Hilly, who believed that African Americans were less intelligent and capable. Hilly even spreads the harmful belief that they carry diseases. These harmful notions, often passed down through generations, make it challenging for the maids to break free from these stereotypes. Aibileen's efforts to teach her young charge, Mae Mobley, to embrace diversity and reject these false beliefs, showcase the power of education and understanding in breaking down racial barriers.

The Power of Friendship and Understanding

The novel emphasizes the importance of friendship and understanding between different races, which was lacking in the segregated society of Jackson. The black and white communities had little opportunity to interact and understand each other, leading to the perpetuation of stereotypes and misconceptions. Through the friendship of Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny, 'The Help' reminds us of the transformative and empowering effects of genuine human connection and understanding.

The Power of Literature and Writing: Analyzing the Themes in "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett

Kathryn Stockett's novel "The Help" is a thought-provoking tale that follows the journey of three women - Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny - as they come together to write a book that exposes the harsh realities of racial inequality in their town of Jackson, Mississippi. Through their writing and collaboration, they not only form an unbreakable bond but also discover the power of literature and writing in bringing about social change and empowering the oppressed.

The central theme in "The Help" is the role of literature and writing in the characters' lives. For Skeeter, a white woman from a privileged background, literature plays a crucial role in opening her eyes to the struggles of the maids and the injustices they face on a daily basis. It is through a copy of the Jim Crow Laws found in the local library that she truly understands the depth of racial inequality and becomes determined to fight against it. This also highlights the importance of access to education and information for marginalized communities, as the maids were not even allowed to enter the library.

Writing and literature also serve as a source of comfort and hope for the characters. For Skeeter, her writing leads to a job offer in New York, while for Aibileen, a maid and one of the main characters, writing is a means of expressing her thoughts and feelings. After the release of "The Help," Aibileen is unfairly fired by her employer, but thanks to Skeeter's support, she is able to continue writing by taking over Skeeter's housekeeping column in the local newspaper. This not only gives her a sense of empowerment but also serves as a form of resistance against the unjust treatment of black individuals.

Symbols also play an important role in the story, particularly the use of bathrooms. Hilly, a wealthy white woman and the main antagonist, proposes a law that requires separate bathrooms for black employees in every white household. This not only highlights the blatant racism and discrimination prevalent in their society but also serves as a symbol for the segregation and inequality that existed during this time period. Furthermore, the character of Minny, a maid and skilled cook, challenges the stereotype of black people being dirty and carrying diseases by feeding Hilly a pie laced with excrement. This act not only debunks the prejudice but also serves as a form of rebellion against societal norms.

In addition, Aibileen's "bitter seed," which she mentions in the first chapter, is a powerful symbol of the pain and anger that the maids carry due to the injustices they have faced. However, through the writing process, Aibileen transforms this bitterness into something positive, channeling it into their book with the hope of sparking change and a better future.

Notable Quotes from "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett

"It's a racist thing, ain't it? What Miss Hilly do to you.

Discover the Powerful Themes and Symbols in "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett

Kathryn Stockett's historical fiction novel "The Help" delves into the topics of racism, inequality, and the power of literature. Set in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s, the story follows the lives of maids and their employers. Through dynamic storytelling and poignant symbols, the novel sheds light on the struggles faced by black individuals during this tumultuous time. "The Help" serves as a reminder of the crucial role of literature and writing in promoting equality and sparking change in society.

Exploring Significant Themes and Symbols in Kathryn Stockett's "The Help"

Set in the segregated and racist city of Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s, "The Help" is a powerful narrative told through the perspectives of three main characters: Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny. The novel follows their journey as they collect the stories of discrimination and mistreatment experienced by black maids, with the goal of publishing them in a book written by Skeeter. Through her exploration of racial inequality and the power of literature, Stockett highlights important themes in her novel and utilizes significant symbols, such as bathrooms and Aibileen's "bitter seed".

The Inspiration behind Kathryn Stockett's "The Help"

Stockett has stated that she wrote "The Help" as a way to cope with homesickness. Growing up in a Southern household with a black maid, she was familiar with the injustices faced by these women and wanted to use her writing to bring attention to their experiences.

How Many Chapters Are in "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett?

The novel is comprised of 34 chapters, each providing a unique and important perspective on the story.

Is "The Help" Based on a True Story?

While the novel is rooted in the historical period it is set in, as well as some of Stockett's personal experiences, "The Help" is ultimately a work of fiction. While the story may feel authentic, it is not based on a single true account.

Addressing Accusations of Plagiarism in "The Help"

Some have accused Stockett of stealing the stories of black women for her novel, but there is no evidence to support these claims. "The Help" is a work of fiction, but it is important to recognize and acknowledge the struggles of real-life black maids during this time in history.

What Happens to Aibileen in "The Help"?

Aibileen, the black maid who assists Skeeter in writing the book, ultimately loses her job as a result of her involvement. However, she finds purpose in writing a housekeeping column for a newspaper. Her bravery and determination to share her story resonated with readers and sparked crucial conversations about racial inequality.

Join Shiken For FREE

Gumbo Study Buddy

Explore More Subject Explanations

Try Shiken Premium
for Free

14-day free trial. Cancel anytime.
Get Started
Join 20,000+ learners worldwide.
The first 14 days are on us
96% of learners report x2 faster learning
Free hands-on onboarding & support
Cancel Anytime