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The Help 1/4

Introduction and Character Analysis
by

Jordan Ingram

on 4 October 2012

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Transcript of The Help 1/4

By: Kathryn Stockett The Help Chapters 1-9 Summary The Help, written by Kathryn Stockett, is set in the early 1960’s in Jackson, Mississippi during a time of racial injustice and Jim Crow Law practices. The main characters are Aibileen, Minny, and Miss Skeeter.
The novel begins with Aibileen, who is an aged and wised black maid in the South. She works for the Leefolt family and tends to their neglected and ignored daughter, Mae Mobley Leefolt. Aibileen’s thoughts are explored and revealed as she describes the indecencies of the Leefolt family and other white people that visit the house. Aibileen shows the readers how unfit of a mother Mrs. Leefolt is by describing her actions, including her refusal to hold her own baby. Aibileen is best friends with Minny, another black maid who is younger, stalky, and has an abusive husband with a lot of children known for her exceptional cooking skills throughout the town. Minny battles handling her tongue in front of Mrs. Hilly, one of the most racist and prejudice people in Jackson, and struggles to find a job because Mrs. Hilly spread spiteful, false rumors about her to every family wanting “help.” Minny is finally able to find a job with Mrs. Celia Foote, a secluded and unprejudiced southern woman that married into money. There is only one problem: Mrs. Celia Foote will not tell her husband about Minny until after a few months, which scares Minny to death, having to work in secret. Then there is Miss Skeeter. Miss Skeeter has just returned from college, proudly carrying a major in journalism. She has moved back to her home with her mother and father and Constantine, the family maid who raised her. However, Constantine is missing and no one will tell Skeeter what happened to her. Miss Skeeter is best friends with Mrs. Hilly and Mrs. Leefolt, but has trouble excepting the prejudice views as they do, which are evident at bridge club meetings. Miss Skeeter’s mother is obsessed with her getting married and acting like a “proper” southern lady, who wears frilly dresses and has a common job as the other women in the community, such as a bank teller. These are all opposite to what Miss Skeeter is “interested in,” especially being that she is struggling to find a job as a woman journalist. Her dream job is to work at Harper & Row, Publishers, but she will only be allowed to have a chance at a job there depending on what kind of insightful and creative journal piece or book she can come up with by a deadline. Until she is able to do this, Miss Skeeter finds a job answering cleaning questions with the help of Aibileen. In the process, she gets the idea to right about the black maid’s point of view working for white families. Harper & Row decide to give her a chance and Miss Skeeter flies with it. This is only the beginning for these three characters. Character Analysis Aibileen
- Appearance: She wears a maid outfit and appears quiet and humble to others. This tells readers that she is quiet so that she can hear the rumors and stories told that involve her or her friends' well-being. She is a simple woman who works hard and is obediant.
- Speech: She talks with a southern dialect: "...Law, maybe I should a just kept it to myself."(Pg. 16) She has a low level of schooling, but is still "learned."
- Actions: She constantly worries about Mae Mobley, which could mean that she is trying to substitute how she missed raising her son the right way by making sure that Mae Mobley doesn't die because she wasn't there to save her.
-Environment: The setting is in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960's. These maids are living in a dangerous time when lynching is a peaceful death compared to the burning alive. The white people are still adjusting to the idea of sharing rights.
-Interactions with other characters: Aibileen is careful with what she says to other people. She shows how much trust she has lost in people since her son's death. Minny
-Appearance: Minny has meat on her and and a stern face. She loves food and is not afraid to be herself, but she puts a shield up to protect herself from showing her personal problems, including her abusive husband.
- Speech: Minny speaks her mind, even if it is innappropriate. Her funny jokes and bold tone are part of her way of dealing with the injustices of the prejudice society.
- Actions: She acts with her anger and worries about consequences later (i.e. Mrs. Hilly's pie). This is a counteract to how she is treated by some white people, who act in spite and apologize later or try to cover up their mistakes by spreading false rumors.
- Environment: The time period is the same, but Minny also lives with an abusive husband and chilren that keep her pinned in the marriage relationship. Minny is bold with people that she does not care for, but family is important to her and she wants to be a good example for her children and keep them supported.
-Interactions with other characters: Minnie makes eye contact with everyone and is open with her opinion. Her interactions with characters in this fashion tells the readers that she likes to be seen as equal and does not agree with the racist society or how she is treated because of her skin color. Miss Skeeter
-Appearance: She is tall, plain, skinny, white, and resembles a mosquito. Life for Miss Skeeter is simpler than it is for the other characters because she has the opportunity to be accepted and treated justly. However, physical appearances delayed her from marrying early and has helped her to stay focused on her true dream of writing as a journalist.
- Speech: She practices correct speech, which shows that she is serious about her passion of the articulate job of journalism, which requires proper speech and grammar.
-Actions: Miss Skeeter is constantly asking and investigating the disappearance of Constantine, her trusted maid. This shows her lack of prejudice and her desire for an equal society so that her maid can be happy, too.
- Environment: Miss Skeeter lives on a plantation in a large house that is closer to the "black" community than the "white" community. She has grown up in a more desegregated setting and is, therefore, used to sharing rights and priviledges with blacks.
- Interactions with other characters: Miss Skeeter talks to the maids as people with feelings, which is the same way that she talks to her friends. This shows that she has respect for their unjust predicament and how well they carry themselves. Major Conflict At this point in the novel, the major conflict that has been addressed is the piece of writing that Miss Skeeter wants to submit to get a job at Harper & Row. In the Jim Crow society, it will be dangerous and almost impossible to find maids to interview to spill the most embarrassing secrets about families that they worked for in the past or present. The maids, Aibileen and Minny, have to deal with personal unrest with the prejudice and oppressive society around them. Their reaction to Miss Skeeter's story is left being questionable. "... I lost my own boy.... after the funeral... something in me had changed. A bitter seed was planted inside me... I just didn't feel so accepting no more..." (Pg. 2-3) "... Standing on that white lady's back porch, I tell myself, Tuck it in, Minny. Tuck in whatever might fly out my mouth and tuck in my behind too. Look like a maid who does what she's told..." (Pg. 36) "...What I needed to do was find an apartment in town, the kind of building where single, plain girls lived...But mother had cried... would it be so terrible if I never met a husband...." (Pg. 65-66)
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