Quotes from The Help

 

 

**** DEAR STUDENTS, and anyone else who has been assigned this book. While I occasionally answer reader questions, it is not a daily function of this blog. ****

 

 

Plenty of black men leave their families behind like trash in a dump, but it’s not something the colored woman do. We’ve got the kids to think aboutMinny Jackson (Pg 311)

Viola Davis as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minny in the film The Help

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You is kind, you is smart. You is important.” Mae Mobley (Pg 443)

They are scared, looking at the back door every ten minutes, afraid they’ll get caught talking to me. Afraid they’ll be beaten like Louvenia’s grandson, or, hell, bludgeoned in their front yard like Medgar Evers.* (Pg 277 *error in the book. Medgar Evers was shot, not bludgeoned. The novel even has the character of Minny stating Evers’ was shot)

 

I might as well be Little Stevie Wonder I am so blinded by that dressMinny Jackson (Pg 317)

“I’ve been thinking about you. You’re smart, you’re pretty, you’re…tall.” Stuart Whitworth, the state senator’s son to Skeeter, his date (Pg 171)

“I hope you write someting really good. Something you believe in” –Stuart  Whitworth speaking to Skeeter (Pg 171)

“It’s called the Home Help Sanitation Initiative- ” Hilly Holbrook (Pg 60)

“A bill that requires every white home to have a separate bathroom for the colored help. I’ve even notified the surgeon general of Mississippi to see if he’ll endorse the idea.” Hilly Holbrook (Pg 9)

“What you think I am? A chauffeur? I ain’t driving you to no country club in the pouring rain.” – Minny Jackson (Pg 17)

“Are you…do you find …find men attractive? Are you having unnatural thoughts about…girls or-or women?” –Charlotte Phelan (Pg 75)

I am neither thrilled nor disappointed by the news that they might let a colored man into Ole Miss, just surprised. – Skeeter (Pg 83)

“I say ‘ That good vanilla from Mexico’  and then I go head. I tell her what else I put in that pie for her.” Minny revealing the Terrible Awful secret to Miss Celia (Pg 339)

“Mother, I want to be with girls as much as you’d like to be with …Jameso.”  Skeeter (Pg 75)

“All these houses they’re building without maid’s quarters? It’s just plain dangerous. Everybody knows they carry different kinds of diseases than we do.” Hilly Holbrook  (Pg eight)

And Miss Skeeter asking don’t I want to change things, like changing Jackson, Mississippi, gone be like changing a lightbulb.Aibileen (Pg 24)

“If I didn’t hit you Minny, who knows what you become.” Leroy to Minny (Pg 413)

I told him don’t drink coffee or he gone turn colored. He say he still ain’t drunk a cup a coffee and he twenty-one years old. It’s always nice to see the kids grown up fine. (Aibileen Pg 91)

Yule May easy to recognize from the back cause she got such good hair, smooth, no nap to it.  (Pg 208)

“We was all surprised Constantine would go and… get herself in a family way. Some folks at church wasn’t so kind about it, especially when the baby come out white. Even though the father was black as me.” Aibileen to Skeeter (Pg 358)

“I’m ashamed. Sometimes, Senator. Ashamed of what goes on in Mississippi.” Carlton Phelan Skeeter’s father (Pg 268)

“I told Shirley Boon her ass won’t fit on no stool at Woolworth’s anyway.” Minny (Pg 217)

“And then they dropped him off at the colored hospital. That’s what the nurse told me, who was standing outside. They rolled him off the truck bed and the white men drove away.” Aibileen to Skeeter (Pg 153)

“You know, its no wonder Stuart Whitworth dropped you.” Hilly talking to Skeeter. (Pg 280)

What would Constantine think of me? Skeeter (Pg 281)

“Remember I told you Constantine had a daughter. Well, Lulabelle was her name. Law, she come out pale as snow. Grew hair the color a hay. Not curly like yours. Straight it was.” Aibileen to Skeeter (Pg 358)

“She looked white as anybody, and she knew it too.” Charlotte Phelan talking to Skeeter about Lulabelle, Constantine’s now fully grown daughter.  (Pg 362)

“I told Lulabelle the truth. I told her, “Your daddy didn’t die. He left the day after you were born. And your mama hadn’t been sick a day in her life. She gave you up because you were too high yellow. She didn’t want you.” Charlotte Phelan to Sketter (Pg 364)

“It’s not the same with Pascagoula here, is it?” she says.

“No” I say. It’s not.” This is the first time she’s mentioned Constantine since our terrible discussion.

“They say its like true love, good help. You only get one a lifetime.”

I nod, thinking I should write that down. But of course, include it in the book. But of course its too late, it’s already been mailed. There’s nothing I can do, nothing any of us can do now, except wait for what’s coming.  Charlotte Phelan speaking with Skeeter (Pg 372)

“Go shopping…get some new clothes. Go do whatever white women do when the maid’s home.”  Minny speaking to Miss Celia (Pg 51)

“Cat got on the porch this morning, bout gave me a cadillac arrest thinking it was Mister Johnny.” Minny (Pg 48)

“Say maybe she getting mal-nutritious.” Aibileen to Minny, (Pg 14)

“That ugly white fool” Minny (Pg 292)

“I got me a knife!” Minny (Pg 307)

“I never thought Constantine would go to Illinois with her, Eugenia. Honestly, I was…sorry to see her go.” Charlotte Phelan to Skeeter, on Constantine leaving with her daughter Lulabelle for Chicago  (Pg 365)

“The book is not about Jackson!” Hilly to the bridge club ladies after Skeeter’s novel comes out. (Pg 428)

She roll her eyes and stick her tongue out like I handed her a plate a dog biscuits. “I knew you was getting senile,” she say.  Aibileen, noting Minny’s expression before she answers. (Pg 430)

“Who taught you those things, Mae Mobley?” Mister Leefolt say and Baby Girl whip her head around with eyes like she seed a ghost. Aibileen watching Raleigh Leefolt speak to Mae Mobley (Pg 431)

My mouth drop open. Why she never tell me this before? “You saying people think I got the black magic?” Aibileen speaking to Minny (Pg 24)

“Please. Find you another colored maid. A young’un. Somebody. . .else.”

“But I don’t know any others well enough.” I am tempted to bring up the word friends, but I’m not that naïve. I know we’re not friends. (Skeeter speaking with Aibileen Pg 109)

He black. Blacker than me. (Pg 189) Aibileen, comparing her complexion to a roach

45 Responses “Quotes from The Help” →
  1. thank you!

    Reply
  2. does anyone know what page number this is on? “Once upon a time they was two girls,” I say. “one girl had black skin, one girl had white.”
    Mae Mobley look up at me. She listening.
    “Little colored girl say to little white girl, ‘How come your skin be so pale?’ White girl say, ‘I don’t know. How come your skin be so black? What you think that mean?’
    “But neither one a them little girls knew. So little white girl say, ‘Well, let’s see. You got hair, I got hair.'”I gives Mae Mobley a little tousle on her head.
    “Little colored girl say ‘I got a nose, you got a nose.'”I gives her little snout a tweak. She got to reach up and do the same to me.
    “Little white girl say, ‘I got toes, you got toes.’ And I do the little thing with her toes, but she can’t get to mine cause I got my white work shoes on.
    “‘So we’s the same. Just a different color’, say that little colored girl. The little white girl she agreed and they was friends. The End.”
    Baby Girl just look at me. Law, that was a sorry story if I ever heard one. Wasn’t even no plot to it. But Mae Mobley, she smile and say, “Tell it again.”

    Reply
    • Hi Ashley,

      It’s from page 200 in the hard copy of the novel.
      When Mae Mobley says “tell it again” it ends with Aibileen stating
      “So I do. By the fourth time, she asleep. I whisper, “I’m on tell you a better one next time.” (Aibileen, Pg 200)

      Reply
  3. Does anyone know what page it is on where Minny admits she likes telling her stories to Skeeter?

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    • Hello, Katilyn,

      It’s on Pg 218 in the hard cover copy of novel. Minny states . . . Everytime we meet, I complain. I moan. I get mad and throw a hot potato fit. But here’s the thing: I like telling my stories.

      Reply
  4. anyone know a goood quote showing how the whites dont accept the blacks. and 2 quotes showing how the whites want to keep the status quo and not allow any black or people of other ethnicities besides whites. thanks

    Reply
    • Hello Jake,

      There’s a quote right on this page you can use to answer your first question:

      “A bill that requires every white home to have a separate bathroom for the colored help. I’ve even notified the surgeon general of Mississippi to see if he’ll endorse the idea.” Hilly Holbrook (Pg 9)

      I’ve posted additional quotes from the book that you can choose from for your second question. Starting on Pg 172 (hard cover book) Skeeter goes into the library and finds a book of laws which separate blacks from whites. These laws were termed Jim Crow laws. The title of the book Skeeter sees is Compilation of Jim Crow Laws of the South

      “No person shall require any white female to nurse in wards or rooms in which negro men are placed.” (Pg 173)

      “It shall be unlawful for a white person to marry anyone excerpt a white person. any marriage in violation of this shall be void.” (Pg 173)

      “No colored barber shall serve as a barber to white women or girls.” (Pg 173)

      “The officer in charge shall not bury any colored persons upon ground used for the burial of white persons.” (Pg 173)

      “Books shall not be interchangeable between the white and colored schools, but shall continue to be used by the race first using them.” (Pg 173)

      Reply
      • Hey guys, does anybody know about two excerpts from the help that represent how aibileen changes throughout the course of the novel?

        Reply
        • Hello Parker,

          The easy answer would be 1) When Aibileen breaks down and “helps” Skeeter though she’s reluctant to at first, but changes her mind 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:

          “I just … have to ask you. What changed your mind?”
          Aibileen doesn’t even pause. “Miss Hilly,” she says.
          I go quiet, thinking of Hilly’s bathroom plan abd 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)

          Thus Aibileen truly becomes the caricature of a blindly loyal, suffering in silence maid, since Stockett decided Minny should be the one to get angry, and there’s your “different voices” the publisher claimed had been created. The saintly maid (a rip off of Delilah and Annie from the 1939 and 1959 versions, respectively in the film Imitation of Life) and the sassy, back talking maid (another rip off, this time Mammy from Gone With The Wind, who begat a slew of TV and movie maids who cracked jokes and were quick to get angry).

          Next, or 2) you can use the scene where Aibileen’s crying at the end, and she realizes that she’s not too old to learn new things, and she could have a career in writing.

          From the novel, Aibileen is the narrator:

          “The sun is bright but my eyes is wide open. I stand at the bus stop like I been doing for forty-odd years. In thirty minutes, my whole life’s … done. Maybe I ought to keep writing, not just for the paper, but something else, about all the people I know and the things I seen and done. Maybe I ain’t too old to start over, I think and laugh and cry at the same time at this. Cause just last night I thought I was finished with everything new.” (Pg 444, hard cover copy of The Help, Aibileen’s inner dialogue).

          A pet peeve of mine is that neither Minny or Aibileen actually “change”. It’s simply their circumstances that are different. Neither one wanted any part of the civil rights movement springing up in their hometown, which was a major blunder of research/critical analysis of the time period, as Jackson MS was a hot bed during the civil rights movement (google Freedom Riders and you’ll find that they’d poured into Jackson in 1961, and both white and black college students as well as teens in Jackson not only attended non-violent marches, but tried to register black voters). But domestics made up a major portion of those marching and demanding equality in the south, partially based on their working conditions.

          Reply
  5. Does anybody know on which page in the book “Seperate but equal” is mentioned?

    Reply
  6. Hi Linette,

    On page 185 of the hard cover version of the book, Hilly states (Aibileen is the narrator):

    “Separate but equal,” Miss Hilly say back to Miss Leefolt. “That’s what Governor Ross Barnett says is right, and youj can’t argue with the government.”

    This is stated after Hilly asks Aibileen whether she likes having her own toilet.

    Reply
  7. Anyone know of a quote with page number of Aibileen displaying theme of family?

    Reply
  8. Hello harrylavertue95,

    Here’s one by Aibileen on Page 184:

    Heather, Miss Hilly’s girl, she pretty cute. Heather got dark, shiny curls all over her head and some little freckles, and she real talkative. One thing I got to say about Miss Hilly, she love her children. About every five minutes, she kiss Will on the head. Or she ask Heather, is she having fun? Or come here and give Mama a hug. Always telling her she the most beautiful girl in the world. And Heather love her momma too. She look at Miss Hilly like she looking up at the Statue a Liberty. That kind a love always make me want a cry. Even when it going to Miss Hilly. Cause it make me think about Treeloree, how much he love me. I appreciate a child adoring they mama. (Pg 184)

    Keep in mind though, when Aibileen remarks on her good friend Minny’s home life how her halo is a bit crooked. Note what she says:

    As usual, Minny’s house be like a chicken coop on fire. Minny be hollering, things be flinging around, all the kids squawking. I see the first hint a Minny’s belly under her dress and I’m grateful she finally showing. Leroy, he don’t hit Minny when she pregnant. And Minny know this so I spec they’s gone be a lot more babies after this one. (Pg 396)

    Reply
  9. Does anyone know any quotes about the hardships faced by the maids?

    Reply
    • Hello cutte123michell,

      Here are a few you may want to use. For Aibileen:

      I lost my own boy Treelore, right before I started waiting on Miss Leefolt. He was twenty-four years old. The best part of a person’s life. It just wasn’t enough time living in this world. (Pg 2)

      **Try to imagine having to still get up and go to work, and have a constant smile on your face during that time period, even though your only son has died.**

      From the maid Callie, as she tells Skeeter what it was like to work for a white woman who felt she wasn’t her equal:

      “Miss Margaret always made me put my hair up in a rag, say she know coloreds don’t wash their hair, Counted every piece of silver after I done the polishing. When Miss Margaret die of the lady problems thirty years later, I go to the funeral. Her husband hug me, cry on my shoulder, When it’s over, he give me a envelope. Inside a letter from Miss Margaret reading, ‘Thank you. for making my baby stop hurting. I never forgot it.”
      Callie takes off her black-rimmed glasses, wipes her eyes.
      “If any white lady reads my story, that’s what I want them to know. Saying thank you, when you really mean it, when you remember what someone done for you” – she shakes her head, stares down at the scratched table-“It’s so good.” (Pg 260, Callie talking to Skeeter)

      And here’s one, when Skeeter tries to process what the maids have revealed to her:

      Angry stories come out, of white men who’ve tried to touch them. Winnie said she was forced over and over. Cleontine said she fought until his face bled and he never tried again. But the dichotomy of love and distain living side-by-side is what surprises me. Most are invited to attend the white children’s weddings, but only if they’re in their uniforms. (Pg 258)

      Reply
  10. thanks!

    Reply
  11. I’m doing a school project for school and I need 10 significant quotes. So far I’ve got:

    “You is kind… You is smart… You is important.”

    “Eugenia, Martin Luther King just invited the entire country to march with him in DC in august. This many negros and whites have not worked together since ‘Gone With The Wind’.”

    Please may you help me!!! Please and thank you

    Reply
    • Hello portialaryeaadu,

      I took a break from my blog, but I’m back now. I’m wondering if you even have the book, because if you do, there should be no problem finding quotes. However, I wouldn’t use the second one you’ve listed, because that’s an insulting joke, and I don’t think you realize it. There are a number of insults in The Help that you have to be careful of. I’m guessing whoever assigned this book also doesn’t realize Stockett’s novel isn’t truly positive regarding race relations and how African Americans are portrayed.

      My apologies, but this isn’t a site that is complimentary of The Help. You want one of those sites that think the book shows an accurate depiction of blacks, and that there’s nothing to criticize in the novel or the film.

      Reply
  12. does anybody know when they’re talking about blinding a black man for using a white person’s bathroom?

    Reply
    • I think you mean Robert, who was Treelore’s friend and Louvenia’s grandson. He owned/managed his own lawn service, but later in the novel he made the mistake of using a public bathroom, only it had no sign up and it was really meant for whites only. He was chased and beaten, resulting in serious injuries. The book says he was blinded in the attack.

      Reply
  13. What page number is “What if I’m stuck. Here. Forever” from?

    Reply
    • Hello,

      That’s page 415 (hard copy of the book), where Skeeter is reviewing her resume. She notes how she’s the weekly housekeeping columnist for the Jackson Journal, newspaper editor of the Junior League of Jackson Newsletter, Author of Help, a controversial book about colored housekeepers and their white employers, and then goes on to ask herself, after not hearing from anyone she’d set her resume to about a job:
      But I’ve heard nothing back from any of them. What if I never leave? What if I’m stuck. Here. Forever?

      Reply
  14. what page is when skeeter talks about how hot it is in Jackson Mississippi

    Reply
    • Hi Cesarea,

      There are a number of passages where Skeeter talks about how hot it is, can you be more specific?

      For example:

      “The foreman drags a red cloth against his black forehead, his lips, his neck. It is so recklessly hot, I don’t know how they can stand baking out there in the sun.” (Pg 239)

      “I used to walk that hot mile myself, when I was a little girl…” (Pg 61)

      “On a hot September morning, I wake up in my childhood bed…” (Pg 70, start of Chapter 6)

      “On a hot Saturday in late September, the cotton fields chopped and empty, Daddy carries a new RCA color television into the house…” (Pg 80)

      “I am in the old Jackson kitchens with the maids, hot and sticky in their uniforms. I feel the gentle bodies of white babies breathing against me…”
      (Pg 275)

      Reply
    • Sorry about that. I meant about the weather and thankfully you hit the nail right on the head. Again I thank you.

      Reply
  15. Hi! I’m writing an essay about The Help and Uncle Tom’s Cabin for school, and I’m looking for a short quote to use as the headline that will fit both The Help and slavery. Preferably something about skin color. Do you have any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Hello Sine,

      Thank you for your question.

      Unfortunately I don’t have a short quote, because its much too complicated to sum up a comparison of both novels with a brief quote on skin color.

      I’ll attempt to explain so that it my position may be clearer, and perhaps you can decide what you can and cannot use:

      The Help’s descriptions on skin color, especially those of the black characters are not complimentary. So my advice would be to tread carefully, because unless you understand that comparing someone’s skin color to a roach (Aibileen compared her complexion to that of a roach, and several times in the novel of The Help, the maids skin colors are matched with objects). For example, when Skeeter is the narrator she mentions that her family’s new maid, Pascagoula, is black as night. Skeeter also states that the maids who come to tell their stories are black as asphalt and that Minny is ten times darker than Aibileen, her skin like patent shoes. Stockett, writing as Skeeter, may not have known that her heroine’s observations bordered on offensive. Skeeter was supposed to be more compassionate than Hilly and Elizabeth, yet many times in the novel she comes off just as bad.

      African Americans, especially those brown of skin were made to feel as if our skin color was a negative trait and not something lovely to behold. Kathryn Stockett failed to note the beauty and variety of skin tones in the black culture, and many readers failed to catch it, even though the author was candid in admitting her grandparents raised her in a pro-segregation household during the 70s and 80s, which were the formative years of her life (Stockett was born in 1969, and the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964).

      The closest the novel gets to admitting an African American could be attractive is when Stockett has Skeeter stating that Yule May has a better figure than Hilly. And even though Constantine is said to have light eyes, Skeeter never states that her former maid’s eyes were quite arresting. She simply states that she’d never seen light eyes on colored person, and that Constantine was a good singer and that her voice reminds her of chocolate. And there’s a section when Skeeter is confronted by Gretchen where the character states Gretchen is articulate.

      The same could be said for certain passages in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, whenever a slave is described who does not appear light in complexion. What’s ironic is that The Help was celebrated as a novel which highlighted the inequity and absurdness of segregation, yet the book actually ends up defeating its own premise imho via descriptions, dialogue and passages that insult and demean African Americans on far too many of its pages.

      So while well-meaning, I’d rank The Help along with books such as The Three Golliwogs and other works (Dr. Doolittle, Little Black Sambo, Uncle Remus) which were created under the guise of being entertaining as reading material and sympathetic to the plight of blacks, but use stereotypes and imagery which contradict their goal.

      I hope this helps.

      Reply
  16. Hi there,
    I’ve just finished listening to the audiobook version of The Help, and I wondered where I could find a certain part.I vaguely recall a section where Aibileen is reminiscing about her white babies and seeing some of them after they have grown up. I believe it was when she had a conversation with a male and the topic of it being strange that they loved their maids especially when young but they eventually had to grown up and conform to segregation rules. Something about how they still did love their black nannies because they raised them but yet they had to treat them differently. Does this sound familiar at all? I have scanned by audiobook but I just can’t seem to find it. Thank you for any help!

    Reply
    • Hello Marcie,

      There’s a section on Page 91 (hard copy of the book) where Aibileen references seeing Tate Forrest, “on of my used-to-be babies long time ago, stop me on my way to the Jitney just last week, give me a big hug, so happy to see me. He a grown man now.”

      Then a bit later on, after she’s taught Mae Mobley to use the potty, on page 96 she’s on the bus feeling bitter over a spanking Mrs. Leefolt has given Mae Mobley. She thinks: The bus speeds up along State Street and my jaw so tight I could break my teeth off. I feel that bitter seed growing ibnside a me, the one planted after Treelore died. I want to yell so loud that Baby Girl can hear me that dirty ain’t a color, disease ain’t the Negro side a town. I want to stop that moment from coming-and it come in ever white child’s life- when they start to think that the colored folks ain’t as good as whites. We turn on Farish and I stand up cause my stop be coming. I pray that wasn’t her moment. Pray I still got time.

      There’s also section where Skeeter uses this premise to convince Miss Stein to take a chance on the manuscript about the maids: “I’d like to write about this showing the point of view of the help. The colored women down here. They raise a white child and then twenty years later the child becomes the employer.” (Pg 105) and Aibileen speaks again about the kids she’s raised on Pg 285. She mentions the Dudley family and how the boy she looked after would get whipped with a rubber hose by his father.

      Reply
  17. YO DOG WRITE ME AN ESSAY ON THIS BOOK

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  18. please

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  19. pretty please with a cherry on top

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  20. Hi! I don’t have a question but I just wanted to thank you for the quotes. I am writing an essay on a shift in power in The Help and this helped me. Thanks :)

    Reply
  21. what page is this quote on?

    “God says we need to love our enemies. It hard to do. But it can start by telling the truth. No one had ever asked me what it feel like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free. And I got to thinking about all the people I know. And the things I seen and done. My boy Trelaw always said we gonna have a writer in the family one day. I guess it’s gonna be me.”

    Reply
    • Hi Madison,

      That whole section isn’t in the book. It was created for the movie. I have the screenplay of both the second draft of the novel and also the final screenplay used for the movie.

      Here’s a screen grab of the scene you mentioned:

      Last scene per the screenplay of the Help

      Here's the entire passage you quoted:

      Last scene per the screenplay of the Help

      Reply
  22. hello, what page in hard cover is this quote?

    “Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, “Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?”

    Reply
    • Hello Lauren,

      That’s on page 63 of the novel (hard cover). Constantine is giving thirteen year old Skeeter advice after Skeeter cries over a boy’s cruel words to her (he called Skeeter ugly).

      Reply
  23. Hello, we were just wandering if we could use this website as a source for our project. Our team also had doubt on Stockett’s novel just like you, and on this website, there are not only similar opinions but also new, critical and creative criticism of the book which we can learn from a lot. Our project is to find the errors from the book the Help and To Kill a Mockingbird and the point is white authors portraying African Americans wrongly; from their perception. We guarantee that we are going to state the reference clearly. May we use this website please? We will wait for your response:)

    Reply
    • We’re the highschool students from South Korea and the project is for the Research Essay Contest.

      Reply
    • Hello Merrae,

      As long as you cite and give proper credit to the associated quotes and links I’ve listed on here from other people, or if you wish to use some of the opinions I’ve listed, that you link back to this site, then I’d be more than happy to help you offer balanced criticism of this novel.

      If you have a specific question about the time period, let me know.

      Reply
  24. Acriticalreviewofthehelp,

    You seem very knowledgable in general, and about this book specifically. However, I cannot help but feel that some of your criticism is unfair. This book is set in a certain time, when social mores and conventions were far different than today. And to state that African-Americans at that time had a much different inner dialogue than what is portrayed seems somehow disingenuous. How can anyone truly know what was in people’s minds at any time, unless that person wrote down what they were thinking at that time? Also, as this is a reconstruction of a time and place that no longer exists in the same form, certain poetic licenses are a given. Also, I have personal experiences to back up my statements. As such, please read on.

    I grew up primarily with African-American kids in the mid 60’s in Watts and Compton, California. I was one of the only white kids there, and I was fairly well accepted. I can remember much of the conversation that swirled around me as basically an observer. And I can tell you that since I was young and quiet, most people spoke about whatever was on their mind, as if I was not there. And that goes both for adults and kids. Consequently, I heard a lot of very insightful dialogue on what people were actually thinking, and I can tell you that, while this was not the deep south, nevertheless many of the views that I overhead, and much of the language, were very similar as to what was portrayed in this novel.

    African-Americans’ attitudes were starting to change, but many of the comments that I recall were self-deprecating, or even downright unkind when they were speaking about themselves or their friends. Mind you, I never spent much time around adult men, as they were either at work, or absent from the homes in those poor neighborhoods, so I did not hear as much of their conversations and thoughts as I did the women’s. Even worse though, many of the views that I heard espoused were just plain racist as concerned their attitudes and their views on other African-Americans, especially if they were older people talking about youger ones. However, many of their views on other, older African-American people were the most racist comments that I ever heard when I was growing up. This shocked me quite a lot, considering my age (from six-years-old until my teenage years).

    But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me add a bit more background.

    A while after we had first moved to Compton, while I was at my grade school, was when I first heard the “N” word. I did not understand what it meant. However, as I knew that it was said about a young African-American boy named, Ocie, who was my best friend, I turned to someone who I figured would know what it meant: namely, a middle-aged African-American housewife who spent a lot of time outside with other African-American women, gossiping.

    She was always very kind to me, so I felt just fine about approaching her. Also, one of her daughters, who was about my age, and who was my friend, had died of a heart defect a little while before this happened. And as I had no idea what “dead” meant, I would go to their house to look for my friend. However, when she tried to explain to me that her daughter could not come out to play with me, I did not understand. And as other people were doing it, I asked my parents if I could take flowers that I picked to my friend’s house to give to her mom.

    I was always a sensitive boy, and precocious far beyond my years. However, since my earliest memories were from Taiwan, where I was raised without television or any entertainment other than what mischief my friends and I could get into outside, I had no concept about the rest of the world. For instance, I knew what Chinese people were, but until we moved to Compton, California, I had no idea what a “black” person was, and had never seen one that I could remember.

    Consequently, shortly after we moved to Compton, my mom was walking me to the school to enroll me, when I saw a “black” kid walk past me, and I asked rather excitedly and loudly, “Mom! What is THAT?!” After all, I truly had no idea. Needless to say, my mom was HORRIFIED! She quickly hushed me, and told me not to say another word until we got home, whereupon she would explain everything to me, which she did. Thereafter, I had nothing but African-American friends for many years.

    Anyhow, back to my friend’s mom. Her mom was so kind to me, and sort of surprised, I guess, that I brought flowers to her, that she cried when I showed up on her porch. This scared me as, first, I was half expecting her daughter to come running out of the house any moment, having gotten over this “dead” illness and, second, because I had no idea why she would be so upset. After all, her daughter was just sick, and I had even been sick myself. It was no fun, but it wasn’t too bad. And even though her other kids were older and didn’t want to play with me once their sister didn’t come out anymore, nevertheless she invited me to come over for cookies and such anytime that I wanted.

    With this history, and knowing how kind she was to me–always taking the time to talk to me, even if she was busy or talking to the other neighborhood ladies–I never hesitated to go over to her house to ask what in the world did this or that mean? So when I was stumped by what the new-to-me “N” word meant, naturally I went straight to her house to find out.

    When I asked her, I will never forget the look on her face. She was, I think, a bit surprised, but she also looked almost as if she was going to laugh. She immediately bent over to pick me up, which she had never done before, and which I found a bit odd. I was suddenly mortified, as it dawned on me that if the “N” word needed a lot of explaining, that perhaps it was not a nice word. I think that she could see the apprehension in my face, because she sat on her front porch steps and sat me on her knee with a slight smile. However, what she said to me still affects me to this day. In her usual, kind manner, she looked at me, and started out by addressing me as, “Honey.”

    “Honey,” she said, “that is not a nice word. You shouldn’t say it out loud or even think it! Sometimes you will hear white people say it about us colored folks, and sometimes you will hear us colored folks saying it to each other. But, Honey, let me tell you that word is not a “nice” word, and the world would be a lot better off if it was never thought up, or if everyone would just stop saying it.”

    By now I was truly mortified. She was so kind to me that I felt horrible about saying a bad word to her, even though she didn’t seem upset. However, she was a big woman, and I had no idea how bad the “N” word was to say out loud. And even though she was always kind to me, the thought crossed my mind that she might spank me. After all, this was at a point in time when kids were spanked everywhere; in school, at home, and just about everywhere else of which I could think. I started crying and hiding my eyes, as I was embarrassed to look at her. She hugged me and “shushed” me until I stopped crying. Then she said, “Oh, Honey, there’s no harm in asking about something you don’t know!”

    I was a bit relieved, but I knew that I was truly out of hot water when she invited me to have some cookies and Kool-Aid on her porch. Of course, I took her up on that, but what she had said was forever burned into my mind, “…the world would be a lot better off if [the “N” word] was never thought up…”

    After then, and especially as I got older, I made a special effort never to use that word, even when in the company of bigoted high schoolers or other peer groups as I got older. I also became more of a loner, as my views often clashed with the mostly ignorant people with whom I tried to be friends. And just to expand this idea out to its full ramifications for me, I knew what segregation and discrimination was since I was very young. I learned these awful lessons when we first tried to move to the Compton area for my dad’s job as a Navy spokesman for the Compton Naval Draft Intake Center and Recruiting Office, directly next to the railroad tracks that separated Watts from Compton, on Alameda.

    My mom was Jewish. When my dad looked around for apartments in the “white” part of Compton, as this was where he was told to look by other married, Navy personnel, he put in a lot of rental applications in that area. I have another memory that is burned into my memory from back then, and that was the first day that my dad took our whole family to see some of the apartments on a list that he had compiled of where he had filled out applications.

    My dad had been assured by the manager at the first apartment where we stopped that we were “perfect” for a nice apartment that he had available. I remember the landlord looking at the application while we all piled out of the car to see the apartment. However, the landlord suddenly stiffened and called my dad over.

    In those days, there were few enforced laws about what could be asked on an application, and even fewer enforced laws about discrimination. Even though he spoke in a low voice, we all could hear the question that the landlord asked my dad. He asked my dad about my mom’s maiden name, which he had required in the application. My dad told him that it was exactly as he had spelled it, “Rosenberg.” We could see the landlord’s back stiffen, and then he said to my dad that he had forgotten to tell him that the last apartment had already been rented.

    My dad’s face turned bright red. He was no stranger to violence, but he called us over to get in the car. When we passed the landlord, we could hear him mutter under his breath, “F***ing Jews!” My dad was so mad that he started cursing a blue streak, but he drove us to the next apartment on his list. It was now too late, however. Back then the white part of Compton was insular and closed to outsiders.

    We quickly learned that all of the landlords in the white part of Compton had organized something of a “neighborhoid watch,” as concerned potential renters who they felt would ruin their neighborhoods. Jews were one of the races that HAD to be kept out at all costs. Consequently, when we went to the other apartments on my dad’s list, suddenly there were no vacancies.

    Now absolutely furious, my dad drove us over to the “black” part of Compton, to an apartment that was near his office, but also directly across the railroad tracks from Watts. We ended up moving into a little cul-de-sac right next to the corner of E. Rosecrans Ave., and N. Rose Ave., next to the fence of the National Guard armory, and behind a church that was on the corner of Rosecrans and Rose.

    This quiet little house, nestled firmly in the center of the “black” side of Compton, was where I grew up for many years. I loved it there so much that when my dad announced that we had to move to his new duty station, I cried myself to sleep for weeks after I heard the hews, and up until we left for good. I was inconsolable, and this frightened my parents, as they had no idea what to do to help me to feel better. Even after we entered our new lives at the beach, I was depressed for a long time. I had spent most of my formative years in Compton, and that was all that I knew about the world. In fact, all of the white kids scared me. They were NOTHING like my African-American friends whom I had to leave behind.

    Due to my formative years being spent in Compton, and being there for truly momentous happenings in anyone’s life, but especially an impressionable boy–Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, the Watts riots, the moon landings, etc.–Compton was my frame of reference for the whole world…and I did not much like the rest of the world back then. I just wanted to go back to Compton.

    But I digress. I want to relate a story to you. This story is one of what people now call reverse racism (which always struck me as being an oxymoron: racism is racism, no matter which way it cuts), and it happened to me. Again, please read on.

    Once we were settled into Compton, my parents decided that they wanted to continue what had become something of a tradition to them. Every Friday night in Taiwan they would go out for drinks and dancing. Now, in Compton, my parents had new best friends, an African-American couple who’s husband was in the Navy with my dad, and who’s wife worked in retail sales. They became very good friends and stayed that way until my parents both died recently.

    The Johnson’s sent very nice sentiments and flower arrangements to my mom’s funeral. Normanda Johnson, the wife of the couple, was devastated. Her best friend of nearly fifty years, and my beloved mother, Lois Hall, had died. And when my dad died, this scenario was repeated for my beloved, hero of a father, Kenneth G. Hall.

    Anyhow, once they became friends they all wanted to go out drinking and dancing. It was decided that as their house was in a safer part of town, my sister and I would stay over at their house with one babysitter and their son, until all the adults came home. Back then, The Brady Bunch was number one on Friday nights, and even though we had an African-American babysitter, her favorite show was, what else, The Brady Bunch! There were some other decent kids shows on television back then on Friday nights, so we were allowed to stay up past our bedtime to watch them.

    Once the shows were over, we were ushered into the bedroom. To this day I have no idea why they had so many beds in their son’s bedroom, and I never thought to ask them when I was older, but there was a large double bed, and a bunk bed that had, of course, two beds. My sister and I were to split the bunk bed, with their son in the big bed. But, alas, no sleep was to be had by me.

    Almost as soon as we were in bed, the Johnson’s son, whose name escapes me, attacked me. He was relentless. As we were both small, no one was seriously hurt, but as I said previously, I was a very sensitive child. As such, and since I did nothing that I knew of to provoke him, I could not fathom why he hated me so much, and wanted to harm me. I was too young at the time to examine the situation too closely, but I now feel that he was either jealous for some reason, he just hated white people, or I had triggered his wrath some unknown way. Perhaps I was too quiet, which he took for me not liking him? I was shy, but got along with almost everyone, so that did not make sense to me.

    He kept it up for hours, not letting me sleep. Finally, in desperation, I fled out to where the babysitter was still watching the television. I tried to stay out there with her, but the Johnson’s son followed me out there, and then proceeded to attack me on the couch. Instead of doing anything to stop him, the babysitter looked amused, and told us to take it into the bedroom. I was now terrified! What if I did manage to fall asleep out of sheer exhaustion? Would their son try to seriously harm me once I was totally defenseless?

    Needless to say, I did not get any sleep that night. And despite my extreme objections, my parents still made me go over to his house every Friday night, where the attacks continued unabated. Finally, when my objections rose to near panic, my parents asked what was wrong, so I told them. They found it hard to believe that I was telling the truth, but one night in the past I had come home with a bloody nose, so after considering my story for a while, they finally decided that I was telling the truth. As such, and without telling the Johnson’s why, my parents hired us our own babysitter and kept us at home.

    To this day I have no idea why their son hated me so, but he did a lot of damage to my sense of well-being. I had nightmares for years after these episodes of violence and fear. Also, as he went to the same school as me, he knew my best friend, Ocie. I have no idea what he said to him, but it must have been a lie, as sometime after my parents let us stay home, my best friend, Ocie, would no longer talk to me. When I asked him why, he ignored me, then went over to the Johnson’s son to be his friend.

    This still bothers me to this day when I think about it. I know that I did absolutely nothing to deserve to be treated that way, but I had no idea how to fix it. In all the years that I lived there, Ocie never spoke to me again, which broke my heart. In fact, after my one girl friend died, and my one boy friend ignored me, I started to become something of a loner. I did make other friends after that, but I was always very guarded afterwards. I am still not sure if any of my newer friends ever really got to know me.

    Yes, racism is an ugly thing, no matter which side it is on. For this reason alone, but along with everything else that I learned by listening, I am more inclined to give the author of this book a pass. After all, wasn’t her goal to try to further the dialogue on racism? In that regard, whatever your objections to the book, I feel that she has earned a right to “quiet enjoyment” as promised in the U.S. Constitution. And let’s face it, even if she got it the slightest bit wrong, she got a lot of it right, and that is what should matter the most.

    Reply
  25. Okay, I’ll admit it. Even though I definitely do not agree with all of your, well, for want of a better word, “diatribe,” I have to,admit that you make some excellent points. And besides, I laughed my ass of while reading your blog post on the dialogue. That was too funny! Now, having said all of that, I have to reiterate that I was raised in a black neighborhood. Well, THREE black neighborhoods, two of which I moved to on my own, as that is where I felt most comfortable.

    I lived in Compton, California, when I was young, in downtown Oakland, California (corner of Fruitvale and East 24th, a predominantly black community), and in the Meharry-Hubbard area in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, which was alternately one of the funniest areas in which I ever lived, and the most harrowing. While in Nashville I was subjected to some of the most garbled language that I have ever tried to understand. I could easily understand “southern talk,” but I found “black” southern talk almost unintelligible at times.

    Let me give you a “for instance.” First, I must say that here, as much as anywhere else, I was more accepted by the African-American community more than the redneck one. Of course there were outliers in both communities, but I felt more at home with black people (as they identified themselves, and sometimes called “African-Americans” “uppity ni**ers, much to their own amusement, and accused them of only living in places like New York or Los Angeles). Anyhow, I heard things in Nashville that totally baffled me, and I am VERY good at listening through dialects or accents, such as Irish accents, or Louisiana Bayou accents and dialects, as examples. Other people tell me all the time that people with accents who are speaking, and whom I understood as clear as day, may as well be talking Greek as far as they are concerned, and as much as they understand them, which is not at all.

    I think that I got really good at dialects and accents because of the many places that I lived in my life, including many foreign countries. But in Nashville’s Meharry-Hubbard downtown area, which is a teaching hospital and dental school, right smack dab in the center of a ghetto, I often heard things spoken that needed translation. Case in point: One day I was walking with a very pregnant Southern Belle past the hospital. As we passed a black guy sitting on the steps of the included drug rehabilitation center, he said quite plainly, in his thick, black southern accent, “Fi’ing a ha’it?” I say “quite plainly” as I could easily reproduce the sounds, but I had absolutely no idea what he said.

    As the girl was talking to me at the time, she missed what was said. I stopped, and turned to her as, admittedly, I was now intrigued. When I told her that the man asked her a question (which I could tell by the inflection in his voice), she asked me what he said. Being a decent mimic because of my ability to inderstand dialects and accents, I repeated hack to her exactly what I had heard. The Belle laughed, turned to him, and said quite simply, “No!” As we walked away, I asked her what was so funny. She told me that she was partly laughing at me, due to my excellent imitation of the man’s speech, but my inability to understand it, and as a result of the man’s question. “Okay,” I demanded, “What in the heck did he say?!” To which she replied quite amusedly, “He asked me if I was ‘Fixing to have it?'”–the baby, I mean. Suddenly a lightbulb went on over my head, and obviously those, um, “words” made an indelible impression on me, because here it is so many years later, and I still remember exactly what the man asked.

    That was one of the funny times when I lived in Nashville. I won’t get into the harrowing times due to their graphic nature, but I saw guns, robberies, murders, etc. Nashville was a real mixed bag, of that I may assure you. I also have many more funny stories, but I feel that I should have bagged my quota with that masterpiece that I just recited. But my point, while not being as well made as I had hoped, now having shared that last story, is that even though I am not black, I do know how black people talk when there are no people around whom they need to impress in any way. It varies quite a bit by the region of the country where one finds oneself, but their “friend” dialogue is vastly different than their “The Man” dialogue. And I used to mimic them exactly, as this was one of my coping skills, and probably why I was accepted in the black communities as readily as I was.

    Consequently, and even though Shakespeare it is not, I have heard a lot of dialogue that is similar to what is in that book. This blog creator is quite obviously very well educated and well studied, but does that equate to the vast majority of the 60’s population of African-Americans being similarly educated and well-spoken? Obviously it does not. Just because one does not like something, and is able to debate very well on that subject, does not make that something untrue. Similarly, the vast majority of African-Americans that I have noted, and who are objecting to the language, are educated, schooled professionals, or middle-class homeowners.

    Yes, the language at times seems stilted, inarticulate, and even ridiculous at some points, but does that invalidae the premise that uneducated, disenfranchised black people who were living as lower-class serfs, essentially, would speak a kind of pidgin English that I have heard with my own ears? I agree that comparing oneself to a cockroach would be fairly outrageous under any circumstance, as are some other passages, but again, does hating the depiction of their language make it untrue? Has anyone done a thorough vetting of the language and the people who were speaking it back then, and whether older blacks who are from that very society give the language as depicted any validity?

    Unless these, and other important questions have been thoroughly researched, I do not feel that it is fair for ANYONE to claim thatbthey know what it was truly like back then. Until
    I hear from a large cross-section of that community from that area, and until THEY ALONE invalidate the language unreservedly, then I am going to have to give the benefit of a doubt to the author. Presumably she researched the era and the language, just as any decent, serious author would have done? Has she spoken to this topic? I need answers before I will accept anyone’s blanket condemnation of a “period piece” novel. Many of the exact same charges were leveled at HBO’s “Deadwood,” that is until the very thorough research of that era proved that much of what was depicted was absolutely true, even if proud weterners hated the depiction, and vehemently disagreed. There was some “artistic license” taken, and some of the language was over the top, but that is why it is called a “depiction,” and not a 100% true biography.

    Okay, now! I want that homework completed and on my desk by our next session! Class dismissed!

    Reply
  26. I believe in moderation, heck, I try to live by the quote, “Moderation in all things.” However, when it is blocking my “voice,” I getba bit testy. Why am I being censored? Is only one viewpoint acceptable here? I want even more answers.

    Q. Will my comments ever be published?

    Q. Will my posts be censored, deleted or redacted?

    Q. Will the women on “The View” ever start speaking like the women in “The Help”?

    Okay, that last question, while highly offensive, was also incredibly unnecessary. However, these kinds of disasters occur when I feel slighted or ignored. I promise to behave from now on, but ONLY if I am abused and ignored! Er, I meant mollified and feted! Or loved and acclaimed! Or coddled and accepted! Or, or, or…oh, never mind!

    Still waiting!!!

    Poo! I’m going to bed!

    As Frazier would say, “…And, GOOD-NIGHT!” Or, “Good-night, Seattle, we love you!” Or was it, “Good-night, Seattle. I’m listening!” Or was it…AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!

    Yeah, probably that last one… No, not the “AAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!” That one was mine!

    Okay, now I am officially bored. This time I am REALLY going to bed! I’m warning you! You won’t have ol’ Tricky Dicky Ace to kick around anymore!

    BLAAAAAHHHHHH!!!

    Reply
    • Hello Ace,

      First, let me state that since I’m the owner of this site, I can pretty much do as I please. I can even take a break, especially in light of all the senseless murders of black males (and females, like Renisha McBride and the women of the Charleston nine).

      As someone who grew up during the civil rights era, for my own mental health I tend to step away from my site from time to time in order to recharge.

      I get that you liked or loved The Help. What you may need to understand and accept is that there are those who didn’t, including me. And if you read any other posts on this site, I go into the trio of Kathryn Stockett,Tate Taylor and Octavia Spencer’s published interviews on the “why” of The Help. It’s not as noble as you’d like to believe. In short, they had an agreement/deal. The Help wasn’t the work of one southern belle. But ambitious “friends” who wanted to get their foot in the door of Hollywood.

      Stockett wanted to be an author, so she used her southern pedigree. But Stockett was born in 1969, so, like she stated in a couple of published interviews “I just made this shit up!” Sad, but true.

      Tate Taylor wanted to be a director. The jury’s still out on that one.

      Spencer won an Oscar, but unfortunately she’s now locked into “Mammy” roles even though she thought by making The Help she’d get better scripts. That may be the cruelest cut of all since Spencer went on a reading tour with Stockett in 2009, ignoring many of the scenes in the novel that I (and others) have pointed out were not only inaccurate, but just plain offensive (one example is the spoilt cootchie dialogue on pg 24-25 in the hard copy of the book, where Minny claims that Aibileen has the power to call down a venereal disease on the woman who ran off with Aibileen’s husband, Clyde. The claim that all blacks carried diseases (including venereal disease) was a well known slur used to block school integration, as some bigoted whites even claimed that our children were carriers. At one point in the scene Aibileen stupidly asks if members of her Christian congregation think she has “the black magic” due to her prayer power of calling down a venereal disease on her hubby’s mistress (The scene infers that Aibileen has some sort of pipeline to God). Stockett brings up so many slurs in The Help and tries to pass them off as part of black culture, that I’m surprised the editors allowed them to make the final copy of the book. It also begs the question of just how diverse the publishing company is, or was at the time of this books’ editing.

      So you see its not as simple as disliking what she wrote. It’s growing up during that exact period in a black southern family, and recognizing the errors and insults in the book.

      Stockett ignored her own research and that of others who’d interviewed black domestics through the years (many of whom stated that the “love” theory was a whole lot more complex and one sided, as in whites spoke of it more than blacks). The Help is no different than other books published to appeal to a targeted audience (white people). Books like Imitation of Life (where Stockett ripped off the loyal, slow but sweet character of Delilah for her Aibileen character) Showboat (where Stockett ripped off the mulatto character of Julie for Constantine’s daughter Lulabelle) Gone with the Wind (another rip off, as Minny is simply an updated, sassy version of Mammy).

      The Help is crammed with so many stereotypical tropes that its success highlights just how cringe inducing it is to resurrect them. Of particular note is how Stockett separated black characters by their weight and skin color. This was changed for the movie when Stockett and co got wind of some of the criticisms of the novel. The thing is, the book was released warts and all, like the totally effed up section where Stockett claims Medgar Evers was “bludgeoned” to death on his front lawn and even repeats this error in at least three separate audio interviews. She even claims that Evers was bludgeoned in front of his children. So much for her crack “research”, especially since she hails from Jackson, Mississippi (Medgar Evers was assassinated in Jackson). She could’ve Googled the correct answer, as the search engine was available while she was working with Tate Taylor and Octavia Spencer on The Help.

      As far as the dialect, you’ll note that the movie made sure a southern dialect was used by both the white and black characters, unlike the book. The Help (novel) simply used an age old tactic of differentiating the white dialogue as if they resided in the Hampton’s, while the black characters read as if they were on a plantation. That’s another thing The Help (novel) has in common with books that were created during segregation. An overwhelming need to “other” African Americans.

      Reply

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