There might be some spoilers in this post, so read at your own risk.
In today’s post, we are going to have a look at the theme (both main and minor). I would say that the main and most important theme in The Help is race and racism. I’ll talk about this in more detail, but first, let’s have a look at some of the other themes such as:
- Love and friendship – in the novel there are many different types of love shown, love that’s either dangerous, difficult or unlikely. And when it comes to friendship, there are friendships that end, are tested and some that are formed. Love and friendship is very central throughout The Help.
- Being a woman – in the novel it’s show very clearly the difficulties of being a woman. We see Miss Skeeter and Minny having problems in the professional aspect (Minny because she has problems keeping her mouth shut, and Miss Skeeter because she wants to be more than a wife and a mother in an environment where it almost unheard of). Whereas Aibileen and Celia Foote have trouble in the emotional aspect. Aibileen is throughout the book grieving the loss of her son, simultaneously as she “raises” a white baby named Mae Mobley and Celia Foote suffers multiple miscarriages and has a hard time fitting in in the Jackson society. Although these women go through many (terrible) things, they find comfort in each other, because their society has not progressed to this level of understanding and tolerance.
- Doing the right thing – I do not think this is the main theme in the novel, but it has a lot to do with racism, and throughout the book Miss Skeeter (and some of the maids) seem to have a problem deciding what the right thing is, but I’ll come back to this.
I would like to add that there are more themes in the novel then those mentioned above, but I will not discuss them in this post (maybe briefly in the analysis). I do not find them to be very relevant in this content.
Before I start talking about the racism in the novel, I think that it is very important that everybody has a clear definition to start with. According dictionary.com these are two definitions on racism.
1.A belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
2.Hatred or intolerance of another race or other
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the main theme. First, I would like to ask you why do you think the novel is called The Help?
I thought about this for a while and realized that one of the reasons why it is called The Help, is because that was how people of color were viewed. In Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960 people of color were just the help, they weren’t given the same right, they weren’t viewed as humans or equals and the general thought process was that: black people (the race most frequently mentioned in the novel) were less valuable then white people. I would like to use a previous examples to shine some light on what I mean.
“So Jackson’s just one white neighborhood after the next and more springing up down the road. But the colored part of town, we one big anthill, surrounded by state land that ain’t for sale. As our numbers get bigger, we can’t spread out. Our part of town just gets thicker.” – in this extraction we get a clear picture of the Jackson and the living standards for the different races. (chapter 25 – The Benefit)