“Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.”
― Kathryn Stockett, The Help
On most occasions, I choose to read a book before watching its movie adaptation. I like to be able to judge the book in its entirety without letting the movie make me dislike it or enjoy it, because usually the book is better.
Somehow I ended up watching the “The Help” a few years back before reading the book. The truth is, I hadn’t known it was a book first until after I finished watching it. I enjoyed the movie so much that it didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the book. I decided that I would eventually — and it wasn’t until recently — that I picked up the book and followed through with my decision.
“The Help” is narrated by three characters named Aibileen, Minny and Eugenia Phelan, who is actually nicknamed Miss Skeeter throughout the novel. All three of these women live in Jackson, Miss. during the civil rights era of the 1960s, but their status in society differ. Aibileen and Minny are both African American maids, while Miss Skeeter is a white writer who recently finished her college degree. Though Miss Skeeter has a privileged life and was raised with the concept of segregation being alright, her relationship with Constantine, the African American maid that raised her, is what makes her different than her friends and a majority of the white population in Jackson, Miss. When talk of wanting to enforce a law where African American maids must have a separate bathroom from the family they work for comes into the picture, Miss Skeeter finds something she passionately wants to write about that opposes the stupidity of such a law. Her decision to do so is what joins the stories of Aibileen and Minny. However, that’s not to say that Miss Skeeter is the main character. All three of them are dynamic characters and are vital to the development of the plot. I’ll stop my synopsis here before any spoilers.
Overall, with the narration of all three main characters, the book is brilliant, both serious and comical at the same time. It took a while for me to get used to some of the writing at first, but once I became accustomed to it, I didn’t want to let go of the book. At certain points in the book I would find myself fuming over the arrogance and racism that particular characters had. But then I’d find myself laughing or smiling at other parts, which portrayed that there was hope, that not all people were horrible.
Since I mentioned the issue with the bathrooms, I think it is safe to relate what infuriated me the most, not with the book, but with the situation. How was it that people could justify making African American maids use separate bathrooms than the family they worked for? The excuse for separate bathroom use was that the maids were “dirty,” or “had diseases,” just because they had a different skin color. But if the families who hired them were so worried about diseases how were they comfortable with them taking care of their children, cooking their food, and cleaning their houses? The contradiction shows the extent of the racism that people were capable of, that there was no justifiable reason behind it, just arrogance. And though the 1960s have become history, considering it’s 2015 now, racism hasn’t. Unfortunately, it still lives in society today, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. If there is anything “The Help” has portrayed, it’s that there is hope for a better future. Change is possible.
Yousra Medhkour is Layali’s Reviews blogger. She is a senior at the University of Toledo. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of English, with a concentration in creative writing, and a minor in Studio Art. She spends her free time reading countless books, a hobby that nurtured her love for words. With this passion of hers, Yousra aspires to become a published author.