The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Reviewed by Summer Jewell

By Kathrynstockett.com-

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women–mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends–view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

Imagine a harsh world in which discrimination and practical slave labor is around every corner. Imagine being basically the property of our employers, deemed unimportant due to our race. In The Help, Skeeter Phelan, a rich, white, twenty two year old, attempts to break down social barriers between races in her town of Jackson, Mississippi. Not only is she teaming up with a group of of black maids to create a contriversial novel that shows the life of an average maid, she’s also starting to develop independence for herself. The three best aspects of the book, in my opinion, are the interesting setting, dynamic voice, and deeply flawed characters.

First, I enjoyed the location and time period of the book. It was set in Jackson, Mississippi and began in 1962. I thought it was interesting that The Help is a historical fiction novel. This means, more or less, that life was pretty much like this in the sixties, with discrimination being a major problem. No history book has ever shown me the detail of this topic, I never imagined this as if I were there, until I read this book. Seeing the struggle of the time period in such detail, almost as if the reader were facing it, really opened my eyes. Also, I found it very interesting that the book mentioned innovations of the time period as well, giving us a look into how much we have evolved. For example, when the protagonist began to wear dresses that fell above the knee, it was a big deal. There were certain standerds set for women in that time, that are not neccesairily around now. It was pretty much unheard of.

Next, the voice caught my attention. I really admired the author’s use of multiple narrorators, giving us the ability to view several different story lines. The book gives lets us investigate the lives of several different women, withvarying opinions and contasting lives. Since one of the women is white, for example, we get a glimpse at how much of a privelige it is to have freedom. Throughout the novel, story lines intertiwine and the narrators are all talking together. I think that’s really interesting, because I haven’t read that many books like this, so I found that aspect unique.

Lastly, I was in awe of the strong willed, dynamic characters. There is Skeeter Phelan, a white woman out of college for a few years, still living with her mother. She is just trying to find fulfillment, which she knows comes along with independence. I really liked the way she acknowledeged this independence, saying “….I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe.” Next, there’s Minnie. Minnie is a maid who was working for the mother of Hilly Holbrook (the meanest woman in town). She seems like a genuinely tough woman, but as we continue to read the book, we realize Minnie’s tough shell breaks. She faces family troubles, and reveals a secret as to why she lost her job that changes everything. Lastly, there is Aibeleen. She works for Miss Leefolt, and builds a very strong bond with them. This is probably because she lost a son of her own. Aibeleen is a very caring person, and I believe her part of the story is my favorite part. Through Aibeleen, we learn that your experiences don’t have to harden you, and you can move on.

The Help is an emotional, entertaining, and sometimes amusing book. It teaches you a lot about life, and you learn that everyone faces their own struggles. I would reccomend The Help to anyone who likes books with a lot of drama and emotion, as well as anyone with a particular intrest in discrimination or the time period of the 1960s. With a realistic setting, a unique voice, and independent characters, The Help is a pretty great book.

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2 responses

  1. Summer,

    I enjoyed reading your review. You touch on one of the underlying themes of the novel, which is growing up and developing your own sense of independence by finding your voice. This seems like quite the “coming of age” tale.

    I have a few suggestions for this paper. In the sentence “There were certain standerds set for women in that time, that are not neccesairily around now. It was pretty much unheard of” you could consider using a semi-colon to join both sentences since they are a continuation on the same thought. It helps the reader in understanding that the sentence relates to the preceding thought and is just an extension of this thought.
    I would also suggest that you review your work to catch any spelling errors that you might have made; I noticed that there were a few in this piece.

    Overall, your review was great. You created a very interesting introductory paragraph and a very strong conclusion. I also really liked that you let your voice shine through your writing with what you thought/felt while reading the novel. I look forward to reading your future works.

    [Side note: since you mentioned that you really enjoyed that the author used a switching point of view with the multiple narrators, have you looked into other authors that utilize this same writing style? I know that Nicholas Sparks uses this in nearly every novel. Mitch Albom also makes use of this writing style in two of his books. If you have time, you may want to look into either of them for any future “just for fun” readings, if you are interested.]

    1. Dear (Ms./Mrs.) Kellie,
      Thank you for the advice. I will make sure to proofread my work more closely next time, so I don’t leave as many errors in my work. I will also take your semicolon advice into account, as I don’t have that much experience using it and I’m sure it’ll improve my writing in the future. Also, I wanted to thank you for your recommendations. I’ll make sure to into those.
      My teacher, Mrs. Baisden, has talked about errors in spelling and grammar previously, so I’m sure you will help me improve my scores on future reviews.
      If you wouldn’t mind, could you give me some advice on how to improve my work. Specifically, I’m having trouble with grammar and keeping my readers’ interests through the body paragraphs.
      Thanks,
      Summer

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