Review of “The Help”

“All I’m saying is, kindness don’t have no boundaries.”

Aibileen and Minny are two of the many African-American maids working in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. Skeeter is a young white girl who wants to be a writer. When Skeeter hears that her friend wants to put in a separate toilet for her maid, she starts wondering how these maids feel about being treated this way. While it is extremely risky, the maids agree to tell Skeeter their story for a book that may be published. The problem is for Aibileen, Minny and the other maids – the consequences of their actions could be deadly.
I absolutely loved this book even though it took me so long to read it. Going through three main characters’ stories was time consuming but enjoyable just the same. I guess I didn’t want the book to end. There weren’t any dull parts or anything that wasn’t sincere about this book. The story was written in the best, most candid way a white female writer could have done. I appreciate Kathryn Stockett adding to the end of the book, her personal account, just as Skeeter did about Constantine. She addresses the criticism that comes from her writing from her perspective too:

What I am sure about it this: I don’t presume to think that I know what it really felt like to be a black woman in Mississippi, especially in the 1960s. I don’t think it is something any white woman on the other end of a black woman’s paycheck could ever truly understand. But trying to understand is vital to our humanity.

I think that is enough of an explanation to give the writer credit for trying to teach us something about our own human experience – and that is what makes for good literature. Reading for entertainment is fine but when you understand yourself and the world around you makes the experience that more impactful.
I’ve also heard someone say they hate narration written in dialogue, which makes me assume they don’t like many quality writers either. The big names such as Dickens, Twain, Hurston, and Faulkner write in dialect because it would be ineffective and unauthentic if they didn’t capture the voice of the characters. I’ve also heard that the book is funny which is true, in parts, but the overall tone of the book is so sad. But sad in a good way because you take something from that emotion – you feel for the characters, and, again, that’s what makes for a good book.
Anyway, I’ll have to watch the movie now and I did what I could to not think of the characters as the actresses I saw on the red carpet not long ago, but I assume the movie will be very good as well. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 76% which doesn’t mean much to me anymore since they gave Prometheus a 73% when it’s the biggest sci-fi film of the decade. But for students in class being able to compare and contrast with a novel like To Kill A Mockingbird would be a good idea for high school literature classes. It would especially be nice to tie in their history lessons on the Civil Rights Movement as well.

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One thought on “Review of “The Help”

  1. Tiger Holland July 1, 2012 / 9:31 pm

    Bravo! I haven't read this book, but I agree with you that writers need to explore and expose human experience, even when it's not their own. It's best to hear difficult stories directly from the people who have suffered, but it is also good to hear from an unaffected person who is trying to understand the problem. That's empathy in action. :-)Good thought, pairing this one with To Kill a Mockingbird.

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