In 1960s Mississippi, Southern society girl Skeeter returns from college with dreams of being a writer. She turns her small town on its ear by choosing to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent white families. Only Aibileen, the housekeeper of Skeeter’s best friend, will talk at first. But as the pair continue the collaboration, more women decide to come forward, and as it turns out, they have quite a lot to say.
For those of you who took a peek at my profile, you’ll know that my favorite book at the moment is The Help. The book is written in sections, from the first person POV of the three main characters; Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter.
Aibileen Clark is the quiet maid to the Leefolt’s, who include Elizabeth, Raleigh, and Mae Mobley. Aibileen has spent most of her life as a maid, quitting school at a young age to help pay bills for her family. In every home she’s worked in, she unashamedly admits what her favorite task is; “taking care of white babies”. Aibileen spends her days in the Leefolt residence cooking, cleaning ironing, and taking care of Mae Mobley. When Aibileen is not at work, she spends her time at church. The people of her church consider her to be special to God, because everyone knows that if she puts you on her prayer list, you’ll definitely be helped.
So this is basically just the summary of Aibileen, but my personal opinion of her is that she’s one of the most amazing women ever. Though the books characterizes her as being quiet somewhat meek, I got the impression the she is brave and carries and unassuming strength. While many people are outwardly protesting for civil rights, Aibileen commits acts that many do not know about. Besides the obvious helping Skeeter, she lays the foundations to make Mae Mobley colorblind, and quietly challenges Skeeter’s perception of black women, carrying herself with quiet dignity. In a society where people believe her to be unintelligent, she holds her own in a conversation with her insight and experience.
Minny Jackson is the former maid of Hilly Holbrook, and the current maid of Celia Rae Foote. She too started as a maid at a young age, and now works in Johnny and Celia Foote’s “McaMansion”. While she does cook and clean, she’s well known as Jackson’s best cook. She’s formidable, holding her own against any woman, be she black or white. Minny is loud and outspoken, often leading to her being fired by her employers. Her home life is a stark contrast to her work life; she juggles five kids while trying not to provoke the ire of her abusive husband.
The best description of Minny can be summed up as “every Southern white woman’s nightmare”. Like I said earlier, Minny doesn’t know how to hold her tongue, telling people exactly what is on her mind. I honestly feel that her mouth could be considered it’s own character. To me, Minny is who I wish I could be, telling people what I think consequences be damned (but I can’t because you know life. sigh). However, I think that sometimes she does fall into a stereotype of the “angry black woman”. While I don’t think it was Stockett’s intention, but readers could misconstrue Minny frequent jumps to anger. But, for the most part I understand her anger, and I love her methods for settling the score even better. Word to the wise DO NOT eat anything during chapter 26.
Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is the aspiring writer who comes from a family that employs maid. While the other two main characters have faced outward adversity, Skeeter’s struggles are not easily identifiable, but no less relevant. Despite being 23, she is a southern girl anomaly; she’s not conventionally pretty, she has a trust fund and a college degree, all her friends are married with children, while she is seeking a job. And worst of all to her mother, she DOESN’T see a problem with her life. Skeeter originally doesn’t start her book as a way for change, shes sees the maids as a means to end, for her to get a better job. But, as she hears more of their stories, she starts to realize her own prejudices and change who she is.
In my opinion, I think Skeeter is a character all women can relate to; even though we have a place “to belong to” we still struggle with fitting in. And when we try to become a person that we want ourselves to be, we lose our friends. To say Skeeter loses her friends is an understatement; Hilly kicks her out of the Junior League for noncompliance, she is uninvited by Elizabeth to bridge club, and the rest of her friends turn their backs on her because they’re unthinking, just plain stupid Stepford Wives. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. As the novel progresses, Skeeter leans to accept these changes, as well as make the best of them.
The help features a plethora of other characters, sometimes to the point where it feels like there are too many. But, Stockett keeps a tight reign over them, giving most of them their own stories and narratives. Whether it be just plain horrible Hilly or the sweetheart Lou Anne, they are each developed.
Did Hilly Holbrook ever decide to become a better person?
Did Stuart wise up and see that he had a great thing going with Skeeter?
Does Elizabeth ever realize her mistakes as a parent, or that it is a “bestselling problem”?
Is their a fallout to the book, or does “Two Slice” keep her mouth shut?
This is my analysis of the help, as observed from the characters Aibileen, Minny,and Skeeter. To me, it is a must read for all ages, both women and men. So head over to B&N, Amazon,or a used bookstore to order your copy.
Snack Break! This book is best enjoyed with coffee and pie! In my opinion, stick to the fruit pies.