Exploring the art of storytelling.
I don’t think I could have read “The Help” at a better time. With all the news lately, I found so many parallels between the book and events of today. It was uncanny. Racial equality is much better than it was in the 1960s, but we still have a long way to go.
I was shocked and terrified that the events of “The Help” were set during the 60s. I’ve learned all about the civil rights movement and knew that racial inequality was a prominent issue during that time period. But I was stunned at how conservative and old-fashioned the culture was. The white women of Jackson, Mississippi reminded me of Victorian women- the way they dressed and their values. I was completely taken aback that areas of our country were like that only 50 years ago. It was eye-opening.
Throughout “The Help,” author, Kathryn Stockett made references to real world events, such as the March on Washington and J.F.K.’s assassination. This placed the fictional characters in our world and provided a token of familiarity. It also added depth to the story. We got to see how these historical events influenced the characters’ actions and opinions. These references were placed in subtly like background noise. They were simply interwoven as a part of the setting of the story. These true historical events were important in conveying the central meaning of the book, but “The Help” was not a book about these events. It was its own fictional story that happened to take place at the same time as these events.
“The Help” was like a snapshot of the lives of people living in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. It was like an old photograph filled with tons of meaning. The specific pacing, plot, and ending implied that we were just stepping into a moment in these character’s lives, experiencing their day-to-day successes and struggles. There wasn’t one big event that defined the frame of the book.
“The Help” was told through three different points of view: Aibileen, Minny, and Miss Skeeter. Aibileen was an older black woman who worked as the help for one of Miss Skeeter’s friends, Miss Leefolt. Minny was a younger, stubborn black woman who also worked as the help. Miss Skeeter, a white woman, was a recent college graduate and an aspiring young writer, who didn’t fit in at home and wanted to defy racial inequality. Each character had a unique personality and reacted to the world differently. Each character also had her own unique voice. The shifting points of view allowed me to understand the characters on a different level. I sympathized with all three of them equally. I was anxious when the characters met in secret. I feared for Minny’s safety around her husband and Miss Celia’s husband, whom I had assumed was a threat. Like Aibileen, I felt anger towards Miss Leefolt. I pitied Miss Skeeter. Personally, I related really well to Miss Skeeter because we shared an interest in writing. Stockett’s choice in point of view allowed me to grow close to three ambitious women.
I liked how Miss Skeeter and the help’s book didn’t completely attack the help’s masters. The book showed both the good, bad, and complicated with working as the help.
The pacing of “The Help” was very odd and unique. Sometimes, only a few days would have passed between chapters. Other times, full months would have passed. During these long intervals, I felt like I was missing out on so much of these people’s lives and stories. I don’t completely understand why Stockett wrote the pacing this way.
The pacing and plot structure made the flow of “The Help” more fluid than solid. There wasn’t a set structure. I didn’t always know where the story was going. There were lots of different scenarios occurring but not one objective or climax. It also took me a while to get into the book and see the point of it. Miss Skeeter didn’t come up with the idea to write “The Help” until a few chapters in, providing a long introduction to the setting and characters. It was difficult to find something to push me forward.
The ending of “The Help” was very abrupt. Miss Skeeter and the help’s book was finally published, and I was on the edge of my seat awaiting the consequences, but none came (at least not yet). We never saw the full significance of their book. This frustrated me because I didn’t have any closure. The characters did though. Most of their problems were resolved. Miss Skeeter got an editing job in New York. Minny finally left her husband, and she was guaranteed a job at Miss Celia’s. Aibileen lost her job with Miss Leefolt, but she’ll be able to support herself at her new job as Miss Myrna at the Jackson Journal. At the end of “The Help,” the characters were at peace, but I was not at peace. I am still anxious to find out how big of a threat Miss Hilly is. I just wanted more. I wanted to know more about the characters and their lives. I wasn’t satisfied, but maybe that was the point. As the pacing and framing illustrated, these characters lives existed outside of the pages of the book. Life goes on. There is no true ending.