I recently finished a fictional work titled The Help, written by Kathryn Stockett, which brings to light the issues regarding racism between blacks and whites in Jackson, Mississippi set in the 1960’s. The Help is a made-up story with made-up characters. However, the book gained major popularity and acknowledgement because of the realness of its subject matter. In other words, it shows how the construction of Racism exists and how it is practiced as well.
The Help tells of a young white socialite named Skeeter Phelan who is determined to write a book from the perspective of the black help, describing what it is like to work for a white woman in Jackson, Mississippi. Skeeter is an educated young woman who feels radically different about the black help than her closest friends. For example, in the novel, Skeeter’s friend Hilly says, “All these houses they’re building without maid’s quarters? It’s just plain dangerous. Everybody knows they carry different kinds of diseases than we do” (Stockett 10). Skeeter disagrees with the society’s commonly held views of blacks, and she is intent on helping the black community. In order to publish her novel, she interviews black woman who provide examples of the boundaries that were set between blacks and whites. They talk about how they were expected to use a different restroom than whites, how their wages were considerably lower than whites, and how they were fearful of simply walking down the street because they might be abused and/or raped.
The Help is important because it addresses the complex relationship between the help and their white employers. On one hand, the help was expected to love and raise the white children of the family they worked for. On the other hand, the whites treated the help inhumanly solely because of their darker skin color. Even more disturbing is the fact that the white children that were raised by the help, eventually grew up and became cruel white employers themselves.
Overall, the black women who participated in the interview came together and asserted their racial identity, in order to protect themselves and educate others. After the book was successfully published, their actions were consequently “helpful” in eliminating some of the racial boundaries that existed between blacks and whites at that time.
Stockett, Kathryn. The Help . New York: Berkley Books, 2009. Print.