The Help and King Lear Essay

Submitted By nicoleAUS
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Pages: 4

Authority is an extremely powerful tool for implementing change in the society we live in. Whether this change beneficial or detrimental lies within ones beliefs and attitudes. Shakespeare’s King Lear explores authority in a more personal family scale, whereas Stockett’s The Help explores authority on a larger context. Both texts are able to effectively present the contrasting consequences of the use and abuse of authority
One’s egotistical attitude can result in the abuse of authority and inevitably their downfall. This is evident in the opening scene where Lear is unaccustomed to Cordelia and Kent’s candid response. Lear reacts irrationally, abuses his power and is unaware that banishing those who sincerely care about him will ultimately lead to his demise. The extreme emotion conjured through this situation is revealed through the graphic and cruel description of Cordelia as “The barbarous Scythian...that makes his generation messes” Lear calling Cordelia a “barbarous Scythian” is ironic as the description does not fit Cordelia but instead himself due to his treatment towards his daughter. Disowning Cordelia is perhaps the most treacherous deed and the catalyst of all chaos in the play. Lear’s abuse of patriarchal authority is highlighted in “But now her price is fallen”. By objectifying Cordelia as property it exposes the effect of one’s superior attitude on their conscience. Authority can greatly influence ones actions towards others and the abuse of it puts one in danger of their demise
Though both texts investigate the detrimental effects of the abuse of authority, Stockett enables us to have a wider understanding of the consequences of ones belief of superiority in society. Miss Hilly and Miss Leefolt represents the conventional belief in society, that white people are superior to the black. Her abuse of authority degrades those of a black heritage to almost one of a complete different “species”. The bathroom in The Help is an essential symbol that represents the segregation within society. This simplest intolerance is evident in “from now on, instead of using the guest bathroom, you can use your own right out there. Won’t that be nice?” The patronising tone and belief of it being “nice” proves that she is in denial of any injustice. Through her authority Miss Leefolt is blinded to the true meaning of her actions and decisions. After her daughter tries to go to Aibileen’s bathroom, Miss Leefolt warns “It’s dirty out there Mae Mobley. You’ll catch diseases!” This line is able to clearly highlight her revulsion through the selection of the words “dirty” and “disease”. The Help is able to demonstrate the effects of superiority on ones treatment of others through their hindered perception of society.
The importance of morals and ethics to moderate ones use of authority is epitomised. Through challenging Lear’s authority by asserting her own, Cordelia is able reveal her strong moral compass. Her response of simply “nothing” reflects the truthfulness of her answer and the transparency in her intentions. Although this defiance results in her disownment, it allows the audience to sympathise with her as her overall intentions were fair and just. Shakespeare rewards this moral