I’ve been hearing a lot about The Help lately. In fact, last semester, Sr. Helen Prejean (yes, the famous author) recommended it to me personally while we were having dinner (sorry for the bragging, I just feel really cool when I say that). I knew I wanted to read it to see what the hype was all about, but I didn’t get a chance until now. Unfortunately, I cheated and watched the movie over Christmas Break. It’s a great movie, first of all. I loved watching it, and watching it with two of my favorite women (Teresa and Hannah Mugel… best friends forever!) made it even better. So, needless to say my expectations for the book were pretty high. I was not disappointed.
Stockett’s use of multiple viewpoints made the story even more enjoyable. I loved hearing what was going on in Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeters’ heads. The switching back and forth wasn’t too confusing, since they say at the top of the chapter who is narrating and I think that the unique viewpoints that you get are worth the trouble.
It was interesting to me that the author took it upon herself to give the viewpoint of an African American maid when she herself is white, but as she says in the afterward, while she will never truly understand what that was like, trying to understand it is vital. I think that trying to understand is important, and it helps us recognize that we’re really all the same, no matter what seems to separate us.
The story itself is beautiful. The world it takes place in is bittersweet—there is the simplicity of an age now gone, but there is the deep poverty in the human conditions caused by living in a world so dominated by hatred, fear, and inequality. It saddens me greatly that these things happened, it gives me a feeling of relief to know that (mostly) those days are past for the African American community.
But, after a long talk with my dear friend, Sarah, I am reminded that things are very much the same now as then, but instead of the African Americans fighting for their civil rights it is now the Mexican immigrants trying to feed their families. I think that Stockett’s book can open our eyes to the way in which we allow a barrier of race (and, sometimes language) to make us forget that we are all made in God’s image and likeness. I hate to think of how often the same attitude of the women in the book is present in women today who treat their Mexican maids the same way that these women treated Aibileen and Minny. Perhaps this is something to think about.