What I’ve learned

This is the last post I’ll be posting on this blog, so to wrap it all up I’m going to write about what I have learned. For starters, I now have a new way of reading books where I put more taught into what is going on. I now look deeper into the books and get a “new” perspective.  Although this is may not the most productive way of reading a book, you pick up more than usual.

One thing we did in addition to the blog work was leave comments on the other students blogs. At times I found this very difficult, because I wasn’t sure whether or not I was writing the right thing. However, all the students that left comment on my posts were no less then lovely.

It’s been fun but hard working with a book this way, but it has made it easier for me to write an analysis.

 

Goodbye.

The theme(s) in The Help

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)

 

The point of view

 

The help is written in first person, but shifts between who the I –person is. This is what we call alternating first person view. The point of view changes between three characters; Aibileen Clark, Minny Jackson and Miss Skeeter. Aibileen is the first person narrator in 11 chapters, Minny in 9 and Miss Skeeter in 12.

Here are some examples:

“But I ain’t never seen a baby yell like Mae Mobley Leefolt.” – This is extracted from chapter 1 where Aibileen is the I – person.

I tell myself, tuck it in, Minny …” – This one of the fist lines from chapter 3 where Minny is the I –person.

I was NOT a cute baby. When I was born …” – This is extracted from chapter 5 where Miss Skeeter is the I –person.

 

When the point of view changes form one chapter to another, the name of the I –person is written above the chapter number. For example, from chapter six to chapter seven the first person view changes from Miss Skeeter to Aibileen. This is how it’s marked in the book:

Aibileen

Chapter 7

(…)

Although the novel is mostly written in an alternating first person view, it has one chapter written in third-person, omniscient. This means that there’s distant narrator telling the story (neither Aibileen, Miss Skeeter nor Minny is the narrator). The chapter I’m referring to is chapter 25 – The Benefit. I think the chapter is written in third-person omniscient, so that we “see” the action better. It also gives a clearer picture of the action then what a first-person view would, because we get to see the action and thoughts of many characters in the same chapter.

Below are extractions from chapter 25 – The Benefit

 

 “Minny jerks the cloth around the rim of a glass. “Let me know if you see her talking to Miss Hilly””

“Skeeter keeps her eyes on the podium, her face stoic and unyielding”

“Aibileen looks up, spots the woman who knocked on Miss Leefolt’s a month ago”

 

 

Bilderesultat for the help movieThis picture is from the Movie version of The Help; it is a scene from chapter 25 – The Benefit.

Source:

Photo nr. 1

A book report or a book analysis?

 

I have chosen to write an analysis on the book The help. I chose this assignment for different reasons such as:

  • The grades; if you write a book report the highest possible grade is 5.
  • The word limit: the maximum reaches 400, and I feel I will definitely need more words to discuss the book properly.
  • Themes and point of view: In the analysis, I will get to go deeper into the theme and get to discuss the point of view (Which in this book is very interesting.)

In conclusion, I’ll write a book analysis instead of a book report because it takes me out of my comfort zone and I’ll get a better chance at proving my writing skills. And who doesn’t like a challenge right?

Bilderesultat for book report cartoon                                            Bilderesultat for book report cartoon

 

The Setting

The Help is set in Kathryn Stockett’s (the author) hometown, Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960’s. So that you get a better picture of how the environment was during this time, here’s how Aibileen views the time/town:

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 case it didn’t become very clear from the extraction above, segregation was very normal in the deep – south. In fact, throughout the entire novel Hilly Holbrook tries to install The Home Help Sanitation Initiative (The HHSI) in every home. The HHSI is about different toilets for the white and black people, because they thought that black people carried different diseases . (This is something the Aibileen reacts strongly towards in the book, although she does not share her thoughts openly on this subject.)

Miss Hilly’s thought process was rather common in Mississippi during the 1960, and is most likely why Kathryn Stockett chose the book to be written during the same time. Although the novel is fictional, it references things that were happening in the real world during the 1960’s; such as the Civil Rights Movement and Steve Wonder.

2435y6

The Help is from a different time, but some of the issues talked about in the book are still relevant today. Tracks of racism and segregation can still be seen in the US today. Things might have changed in the eyes of the law, but not as much in people’s mindsets. Therefore, I think it is so important that people read and reflect over this novel.

 

“Do you ever wish you could…change things?”

Todays title is a line from the first chapter in the book. It’s spoken by Miss Skeeter and directed towards Aibileen.

In the beginning of chapter 1 we are introduced to Aibileen Clark for the first time. She is the one narrating the story in this chapter. The first part of the chapter is a flashback to when Aibileen lost her son Treelore, and how she later came to work as a maid for Miss Leefolt. (One of her main “chores” is to take care of Miss Leefolt’s daughter, Mae Mobley.) In this chapter Aibileen says that the death of her son planted a bitter seed inside her, and I will come back to why this is so important throughout the novel. It is also in this chapter that we meet Minny Jackson for the first time.

In the second part of chapter 1 we meet Miss Skeeter Phelan (Eugenia Phelan; Skeeter is a nickname), Miss Hilly, Miss Walter and we hear about Celia Foote. It’s in this part of the chapter the title of this blog post becomes relevant. Miss Skeeter asks Aibileen if she ever thought about changing things. And guessing from Aibileen’s reaction in the book, she has, but she does not share these thoughts with Miss Skeeter. This was NOT a common topic of conversation in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960, let alone between a white woman and a maid. (Aibileen describes Miss Skeeter as “the kind that speak to the help”, so this may elaborate on character)

During their brief conversation, Miss Skeeter asks Aibileen about a maid called Constantine. Aibileen knows more then what she lets on, and this is one of the reasons Miss Skeeter continues to approach Aibileen throughout the novel. (Constantine is Miss Skeeter’s old maid, and they had not seen each other since Miss Skeeter left for college.) Over time the focus shifts over from Constantine and onto a writing project between Aibileen and Miss Skeeter, but this happens later on in the book.

One of the things we learn in chapter 1 is that the death of Treelore had a big effect on Aibileen, and is the reason things play out the way that they do. Aibileen says that she just didn’t feel as accepting anymore after the death of her son. This later opens a window for Miss Skeeter.

 

Bilderesultat for aibileen clark the help book

 

 

The actress that portrays Aibileen clark in the movie version of The Help.

 

 The actress that portrays Miss Skeeter in the movie version of The Help.

 

Photos:

Nr.1

Nr.2

 

Task 1: What, why and how.

My novel of choice for this assigment is The Help.

The Help is about African-American women working as maids in Mississippi during the 1960. It’s written by Kathryn Stockett and contains many important themes that we’ll discuss later. I have read this novel before, so when I learned about this blog assignment it came as a natural choice. Although I’ve read The Help before I still went through the checklist below to figure out if the novel was a fitting choice.

  1. “Does this novel interest you?” This was an absolute YES!
  2. “Does this novel fit your skill level?” The book has a relatively easy language and I am confident I’ll get through it in time.
  3. “What can you learn from this novel?” I think this book will give me some perspective on how it was being black and a woman in America during the 1960.

Therefore, by choosing “The Help”, I get to read one of my favorite novels all over again and share my opinions on it.

cropped-the-help.jpg(Picture nr.1 and nr.2 )