The Help

By: Rebecca Diaz

Novel Project - COMM 411

For this assignment, I chose to read and write about The Help. I enjoyed the movie and was looking for an excuse to actually read the book and I am SO glad I did!
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Soooo... Tell us about The Help!

The Help, Kathryn Stockett's debut novel, tells the story of black maids working in white Southern homes in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, and of Miss Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a 22-year-old graduate from Ole Miss, who returns to her family's cotton plantation to find that her beloved maid and nanny, Constantine, has left and no one will tell her why. While worried about her nanny, Skeeter dreams of being a writer, but the only job she can find is with the Jackson Journal writing a housekeeping advice column called "Miss Myrna." Skeeter knows little about housekeeping, so she turns to her friend's maid, Aibileen, for answers and finds a lot more. Skeeter then approaches Aibileen with the idea to write narratives from the point of view of 12 black maids. In this essay, we will explore the characteristics of a few actual mothers of the novel and the maids who played the roles of mothers.
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Maid or Mother?

The first, and what I consider the most important motherly figure we will discuss is Abileen, who is a wise and weathered black maid who has raised seven white children. She works for Elizabeth Leefolt and adores her daughter Mae Mobley Leefolt— even though she knows that the loving relationship could hurt them both. Since her son's death, Abileen finds that she cannot accept the way things are so easily now. The book she writes with Skeeter and the other maids empowers her to stand up for injustices. She teaches the children she raises that the color of skin does not matter but love and kindness do; but she often feels that the message is countered by the racism in Jackson. Aibileen realizes she has more to offer in life than being a maid and finds the courage to try something new.
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Elizabeth Leefolt

These next few mothers were minor characters, but actual mothers in the novel and each had a different character and background story. Elizabeth Leefolt is Skeeter's childhood friend who is consumed with making her home look nicer than it is. She seems to have little interest in being a mother and is annoyed by her own daughter. Elizabeth cares about appearances and will do anything to protect her reputation.
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Charlotte Phelan

We then have Charlotte Phelan, Skeeter's overbearing mother who is losing a battle with cancer. She reinforces the ideas of what it means to be a white Southern woman. She tries to control every aspect of Skeeter's appearance and her life but her efforts backfire.
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Constantine

Finally, we have Constantine, who was the Phelan family's previous maid. She raised Skeeter but was fired while Skeeter was away at college. Constantine gave birth to her daughter, Lulabelle, who turned out to be very fair skinned, and gave her up for adoption. She was born fair enough to pass for white even though both of her parents are black. Constantine decides the pressure of trying to raise a light-skinned child in a black community was too much; and to assure Lulabelle's future, she drops her off at an orphanage when she is four years old.
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What I Have Learned

What I have learned from these mothers or “motherly figures” is that even though they are from a different era, most can still relate to them in present day. It shows how racism and prejudice affected some, while had no impact on the quality of the mothers. Moreover, I was more impressed with how the maids did all the housework and looked after the children while the mothers were away or “too busy”. Today, it seems mothers have more control over both their kids and their households where they don’t need to hire maids, even if they have the money to do so. I would recommend this novel to anyone and I hope they will have taken something from it just as much as I have.

The Help scene FULL ''Minny's Chocolate Pie'' HQ

My Favorite Scene

We all know the ending was quite depressing...so here's something to make us all laugh!