The Help is a movie that has been adapted from a bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett. The story revolves around Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s. The storyline is developed from the point of views of Aibileen Clark, Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan and Minny Jackson. Skeeter is a white young lady who has aspired to be a writer. Her break into the same materialized when she was availed an opportunity to transcribe the Black maid’s experiences in the town. It is quite evident that each of the maids worked for a white family. In the beginning of the endeavor, only the maid by the name of Clark was willing to share her experiences, albeit reluctantly. When Minny joined her, there was a further influx of other maids who were willing to tell Skeeter their stories.
Skeeter’s writing of her novel is against a background of having being raised by a black maid and having a mother who was unyielding and who expected that Skeeter would adhere to every instruction that was given to her (Perry, 2011). This paper discusses the themes that are evident in the movie and how the same have developed therein. These include the themes of racism and social segregation, gender inequality, and unity.
The stories that the Black maids told Skeeter for her novel revealed that the Jackson society at that time was very racist. The maids were unappreciated by their white employers as well as disrespected in the manner in which they were treated. The wages that they were paid were deplorable when compared to the work that was assigned to them. They were the ones that raised their white employers’ children without the input of the parents. This was despite the fact that the Blacks were considered dirty, lazy, disease–ridden and having less intelligence that the average white person. Further, the movie showed that it was quite dangerous to attempt to challenge stereotyping and pursue the dissolution of the lines that separated citizens based on the color of their skins. Skeeter tried to change the people of Jackson’s perception of the Blacks. This was however met with a lot of resistance and she was even considered a bit insane for attempting this.
The racism in this society led to the segregation of the Blacks and the Whites. The amenities that were set aside for the Black people were more sub–standard than the ones that were assigned to the White people. There is a character in this movie Hilly who sought to create an initiative that prevented the Blacks from using the washrooms that were located inside their employers’ house. Instead, the White employers were to construct toilets that were outside for their use. In response to this, Skeeter retorted that, “maybe we should make a toilet outside for you to use”. The ladies who were around the table gasped at this as it was incomprehensible that a White person could attempt to speak up on behalf of the Blacks.
The purpose of this segregation as explained by the proponent was to keep separate the Blacks and the Whites as the colored were said to have diseases. Despite the outcry by Skeeter, this initiative had the support of Mississippi’s surgeon general and the governor. One of the maids was fired because she had the nerve to use a toilet that was within her White employer’s house. Since we don't ever see things from Hilly's point of view, it's hard for us to understand why she goes to such lengths to make life miserable for the black community. The Help, however, makes clear in the section on "white lady's tools" that Hilly is, unfortunately, not the exception, but the rule, among the high-society women in Jackson
The maids also disclosed to Skeeter how their White female employers behaved and were treated in their homes. Their roles in the society were to ensure that their homes were well kept and to bear children for their husbands. This was the expectation that Charlotte Phelan had for her daughter. When Skeeter returned home with a diploma that she had gained…