Got a Question on the Novel?

If you have a question on the novel or the times it’s set in, just leave your question on this page.

11 Responses “Got a Question on the Novel?” →
  1. Why did “The Help” risk personal danger in order to help Skeeter write her book? And who helped her the most?

    Reply
    • Hi Lauren,

      The why of it is never really explained well. The catalyst seems to be Hilly’s actions, first against Aibileen and next against Yule May. The polished answer would be they decided to risk their lives because speaking out was a small victory against the unjust system of segregation.

      According to the novel, Aibileen is the first maid to join up. On page 122 Skeeter asks Aibileen why she’d changed her mind (after saying no earlier) about contributing to the book. Aibileen admits it was because of Hilly.

      I believe the author was trying to show that Hilly’s actions had finally gotten to Aibileen. This was right after Hilly badgered Aibileen into saying thank you for Elizabeth’s new outhouse.

      So at this point, Aibileen isn’t really thinking about personal danger, but how low Hilly made her feel. And the author uses the same tactic to bring the other maids on board, when Yule May gets a longer prison sentence for stealing from Hilly. The other maids are upset and decide to help Skeeter with the novel in retaliation (Pg 252)

      But this also reveals a problem with their motivation. The author has them doing this just to spite Hilly (or gaining the courage to do it out of anger over Hilly), and its only later that they realize the impact their stories can have.

      The answer to your second question is Aibileen. Without Aibileen’s assistance, Skeeter would not have had access to the other maids. Also, Aibileen’s home was the only place they could meet in secret.

      Aibileen introduced Skeeter to Minny, and Aibileen also approached the other domestics at her church, though she reported back to Skeeter that they’d initially turned her down.

      After Hilly’s actions against Yule May, many of the maids decide to now tell Skeeter their stories, but they wouldn’t have know about the novel without Aibileen canvassing them in the first place.

      I hope this answers your questions.

      Reply
  2. Hi! I came across this site and it helps me so much with my essay on the book. Our teacher assigned us this project and our work is to prepare quotes from the book and bring to class where we write the essay in class by hand. The theme for the thesis should either center around Discrimination, Isolation, or courage. I have some thesis which are:

    Through the characterization of Ms. Celia and Mae Mobley, Kathryn Stockett shows how rejection will turn one to depend on other source for love. [Isolation]

    Through the characterization of Lulabelle, Ablieen and Minny, readers learn that ones who experienced discrimination will lower their self-esteem. [Discrimination]

    Through the characterization of Ms. Celia, Minny, and Ms. Skeeter, readers discover how one would becomes courageous if given a cause worth their values. [courage]

    I’m struggling to find quotes that support these thesis(I need to prepare at least 5 for each thesis). I was wondering if you could help me…

    Reply
    • Hi Pauline,

      Thank you for your questions.

      You may want to search for sites that are enamored with The Help. There are far more of them out there than ones critical of the novel and movie, like my site.

      That’s why I don’t know if I can be of assistance to you, because the assignment given does not lend itself to the issues of the novel. For example, “Through the characterization of Ms. Celia, Minny, and Ms. Skeeter, readers discover how one would become courageous if given a cause worth their values.”

      The reader is never really given insight into Celia, Minny or Skeeter’s “values” imo.

      Why Celia is colorblind is never revealed, so the reader is left to assume she’s just a lovable ditzy young woman. This is further cemented by her inability to realize until much later that she’s not considered worthy enough to associate with Hilly, Skeeter and the others even though she’s married to Johnny Foote. While the argument could be made that Hilly was the cause of all Celia’s problems (Hilly and Johnny were sweethearts before Celia came along) Celia’s ability to see beyond Minny’s color is never fully explored.

      Minny’s values are suspect and at times her dialogue is stupid, because she comes right out (in the novel) and admits that she doesn’t care about the civil rights protests going on (they were aptly dubbed the “Freedom Movement” for a reason), and even clashes with a character named Shirley Boon, giving this bit of stereotypical and un-needed dialogue simply meant for cheap laughs:

      “I told Shirley Boon her ass won’t fit on no stool at Woolworth’s anyway.” Minny speaking of a person holding a community meeting concerning the Woolworth sit-ins (Pg 217)


      Here’s a bit of her “values” in this inner dialogue:

      “And I know there are plenty of other “colored” things I could do besides telling my stories or going to Shirley Boon’s meetings-the mass meetings in town, the marches in Birmingham, the voting rallies upstate. But truth is, I don’t care that much about voting. I don’t care about eating at a counter with white people. What I care about is, if in ten years, a white lady will call my girls dirty and accuse them of stealing silver.” Minny (Pg 218)

      Minny ultimately ends up defaulting into a Mammy character, bonding with Celia Foote (infantile character in the form of a grown woman, thus most of the maids become surogate Mammies to younger females – Constantine is paired with Skeeter, Aibileen with Mae Mobley, Minny with Celia, and yet the young African American children in the novel are given no such motherly comfort or sound advice). Minny smacks her daughter Sugar for gossiping about Celia and gives her Mammyish advice to live on, which turns this abused woman into an abuser of her own child. In addition, neither Minny or Aibileen offer Minny’s youngest, Kindra, any coddling or positive mantras even though the child witnesses her mother’s abuse on almost a daily basis.

      As far as Skeeter, I view her as a weak protagonist. At the end of the novel Skeeter leaves without fully realizing just what she’d asked of the maids, and how their lives will be impacted.

      Again, a big gap in the novel is how Skeeter is a liberal with a mother like Charlotte Phelan, who is very vocal about the differences in blacks and whites, and Skeeter’s father, who never voiced his opinion on race until Stuart’s dinner party. It’s especially troubling that the author had Skeeter attend Ole Miss, a school not known for graduating students with liberal mindsets in the 60s.

      Kathryn Stockett left out the violent protests over the first black student to enroll in the college, James Meredith. Two people were killed, one of which was a French reporter covering the riots at Ole Miss. This was a very ugly, racially oppressive time period and while The Help may make some feel all warm and fuzzy, it glossed over and frankly, got a number of things wrong, for example, Medgar Evers death on page 277, where Skeeter claims he was “bludgeoned” on the front lawn and the author gives three audio interviews attesting to the same thing.

      Link: https://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/medgar-evers-error-in-the-help/

      In addition, Skeeter never comes out and says whether she believes segregation is wrong. And while some might argue that Skeeter was young, to that I say, the real life student in an iconic photo of the actual Woolworth sit-in in Jackson, MS was even younger:

      https://acriticalreviewofthehelp.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/trumpauerj4.jpg?w=450&h=303

      Joan Trumpauer Mulholand publicly showed her support for integration. She was nineteen and decided to enroll in the up til them all black Tougaloo College, the same one mentioned in the novel.

      If I am able to do one thing on this blog, it would be to get visitors to think about just how far fetched Stockett’s tale is, regardless of the accolades. Minny, Aibileen and Constantine exhibit a kind of self-loathing that some readers mistake for “goodness” or as they used to say back during segregation, that these characters are a “credit to their race.”

      Your instructor had every right to assign the novel, but this is not a text which lends itself to questions on “courage” or “love” since the characters, their dialogue and the storyline takes liberties meant solely to manipulate the reader imo.

      I will also say that I’d like to use some of the questions you’ve listed in an upcoming blog post, so that instructors realize the pitfalls of assigning a novel like The Help.

      Reply
  3. Of course you can🙂 but all that aside, thank you! so so much!

    Reply
  4. Im writing an essay about The Help and i was wondering if you could help me finding some quotes ive been looking for? First off, i am looking for a quote that expresses the racism in that society but is hidden kind of like an anomaly? Secondly, im having trouble finding any quotes that relate to the realtionship between the Help and their employers.. thankyou!

    Reply
  5. Hi! I’m trying to find the passage where Aibileen tells Skeeter she has said something untactful or racist during bridge club (maybe?) after which Skeeter wonders what else she has said that she didn’t realize.

    Reply
    • Hello Anastasia,

      On page 154 in Chapter 12 during Skeeter’s sixth session with Aibileen, Skeeter remarks “She tells me that I once commented that colored people attend too much church. That stuck with her. I cringe, wondering what else I’ve said, never suspecting the help was listening or cared.”

      Reply
  6. Hello, I am working on an essay for this novel and I have a question about it. What motivated Aibileen to participate in Skeeter’s project? Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Hello Maddy,

      Aibileen breaks down and “helps” Skeeter though she’s reluctant to at first, after Hilly insults her (Hilly’s insinuation that blacks and whites are “different” and that’s why separate toilets are needed truly offended Aibileen, but it’s never really dwelled on in the book). This would have been a good opportunity to dig deeper into Aibileen’s pain at that moment, how it felt to be insulted but unable to respond in kind. Instead Aibileen is so tightly coiled and scared to show emotion that the character comes off flat and as an unrealistic saint imho).

      From the novel, Skeeter speaks first on Pg 122 in the hard cover version of the novel:

      “I just … have to ask you. What changed your mind?”

      Aibileen doesn’t even pause. “Miss Hilly,” she says.

      I [Skeeter speaking ] go quiet, thinking of Hilly’s bathroom plan and accusing the maid of stealing and and her talk of diseases. The name comes out flat, bitter as a bad pecan. (Pg 122, Skeeter is the narrator talking to Aibileen on the phone)

      Reply
  7. I think this novel could have been so much more, even if Stockett had chosen to just present from Aibileen’s POV. Only…it’s been 2 years since Treelore’s death, but it still takes every thing she can do to just get out of bed in the morning. Minding Mae Mobley is a means of paying the rent, a diversion from her grief, and no means a replacement for her lost son. Minny is too much her junior to be a real friend, but Aibileen knows what she faces at home from her husband Leroy, and sometimes keeps her two youngest children Benny and Kindra with her in the evenings if there’s been a really bad dustup. Aibileen has raised enough white babies to recognize the symptoms of postpartum depression in Elizabeth Leefolt-and to recognize that to some degree she had been verbally and emotionally abused by her own mother. She used to take a lot more pleasure in her role, but after years and years of watching those sweet smiling faces turn into scornful adults just like their parents she just doesn’t give much of a damn anymore. But, perhaps Mae Mobley will be different.
    Now, what does that Miss Skeeter want, hanging around in the kitchen…

    Reply

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