In The Help, Kathryn Stockett highlights the voices of those often ignored during the 1960s in conservative southern America, the black minority working in the homes of the wealthy, white, and powerful. During this time in history, African Americans were finally freed from slavery but still seen as inferiors. They were still fighting for basic civilian rights while also continuing to work the same miserable jobs for little pay due to lack of opportunity.
It was not an ideal situation, as explained through the stories of the help — or African Americans who worked in the house. Two of these ladies named Minny and Aibleen share their stories of being in the house. Both have been maids for many years, but Minny chooses to be more outspoken than Aibleen, which causes her to get fired a few times and even put herself in bad situations. She is sassy and has a way of dealing with people that she does not like that is unorthodox but very amusing. Aibileen is maternal and wise, making her the mentor. Although she tries to avoid trouble and keep her families happy, there is never a time she does not live in fear. Skeeter, an educated aspiring writer and daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, sees the wrongs being done around her and tries to assist the help in her community by educating them, fighting for them, and sharing their stories.
A smart and courageous girl like Skeeter sticks out in the bustling town of Jackson, where gossip is valued more than anything else and a college education like Skeeter’s is seen as unnecessary. The women are to marry, men are to make money, and blacks are to work for the whites. This traditional town is the perfect setting to better display the event a at the time due to it’s conservative demeanor and need for gossip. Also, all of the characters and their diverse personalities fit somewhere in this Mississippi town.
This historical fiction narrative is unique in it’s composition due to the fact that each character has a different narrator, thus giving different chapters different points of view and tone and even different protagonists. Although published in 2009, Kathryn Stockett uses very appropriate jargon for the time period and also each individual character. The writing style itself is an adventure because it is unpredictable and never mundane. I personally believe that if you are craving some historical insight of the Civil Rights movement while also being entertained by eccentric characters and an uncommon yet enjoyable writing style, then this book is a piece of literature you must read.