Kathryn Stockett, author of the award-winning and successful novel The Help was born and raised in the setting of her very own book, Jackson, Mississippi. Stockett grew very close to her own maid growing up, which inspired her writing The Help. Another fun fact about her childhood, Stockett's best friend was in fact the director of the film version of The Help, Tate Taylor. Kathryn Stockett earned her degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Alabama. After college, Stockett moved to New York City to pursue a career in writing. Stockett worked in the magazine publishing and marketing business for 16 years before writing her novel. The Help took five years for Stockett to write, and was turned down by 60 agents before an agent agreed to represent Stockett. Her agent seemed to have the right idea about The Help because it topped The New York Time's Best Seller List. The Help was published in forty two languages and was successful worldwide. So far, The Help is Kathryn Stockett's only novel. Kathryn Stockett currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
The 1960s was an important decade in the development of feminism and the change of women's roles in the United States. This development is extremely evident throughout The Help. Skeeter is especially an example of the progress of feminism during the sixties. She is the only one of her friends who actually completes all four years at Ole Miss. Not only does she graduate from college, she even gets a job afterwards. Women were able to have more freedom to enter the workforce during the 1960s due to the federal government's approval of the birth control pill. They could choose when they wanted to become mothers, giving them the time and ability to have a career. This opportunity to work came with new issues involving the expectations of women. Before many women had careers, they were expected to be wives and mothers for the entirety to their lives. Sexism was very common during this transitional decade for American women. Advertisements often encouraged women to be the perfect wife and mother, instead of empowering them to have a career and a personal life. Eliminating these old expectations was the most difficult part of the rise of feminism and is still a problem today. When Skeeter's mother hears the news about her new job she scoffs and says, "Great. Now you can write my obituary. Charlotte Phelan, dead. Her daughter, still single." (dialogue from the movie adaptation of The Help.)
Even with these obstacles, feminism really took off. Women demanded the same pay as men, and demanded that harassment and sexism be eliminated in the workplace. Men started to share the responsibilities to parenthood and domestic chores. The National Organization for Women was founded during this decade. Feminism was also evident in culture, such as on popular television shows and music.
Source: Walsh, Kenneth T. "The 1960s: A Decade of Change for Women." US News.
U.S.News & World Report, 12 Mar. 2010. Web. 06 Dec. 2013.
Aibileen Clark, the Leefolt family's maid and Skeeter's greatest ally in The Help, demonstrates almost all of the aspects described in Thomas C. Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor of what makes a Christ figure.
1. In agony- While Aibileen is not in physical agony, she suffers from emotional agony. Her only son Treelore, tragically died after a work accident. When Treelore was injured, the white men he was working for simply dropped him on the sidewalk outside of the blacks-only hospital instead of taking him inside. Knowing this causes Aibileen extreme guilt for not being there for her son in his moment of need and extreme sadness because he was the only family member she had left.
2. Self-sacrificing- Aibileen takes the risk of sacrificing her reputation and safety when she agrees to help Skeeter with the book project. Aibileen knows personally how dangerous fighting back against racism can be. One of her friend's grandsons is blinded by some white men when he accidentally uses a whites-only restroom. Even though she could choose to not help Skeeter because of these facts, she chooses instead to do what is right and help tell the unheard stories of black maids in Jackson, Mississippi.
3. Good with Children- Obviously, due to her career, Aibileen is a very skilled caretaker and nanny. Not only does she feed the children with her delicious cooking, she fills them up with self-confidence. Every day, Aibileen tells Mae Mobley, "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." Aibileen knows that some of the mothers of the children she takes care of will never say such kind things to their children, so she wants the children to feel loved.
4. Good with loaves, fishes, water, and wine- While Aibileen might not cook these specific foods, she is described as being a very good cook.
5. Employed as a carpenter- Even though she is not a carpenter, like Christ, she has a humble job.
6. Known for humble modes of transportation- Aibileen does not take the bus to work, instead she chooses to walk.
7. Often portrayed with arms outstretched- Every day when she arrives at work, she hugs Mae Mobley. Aibileen also often hugs her friends, such as Minny.
8. Known to have spent time alone in the wilderness- While Aibileen has not been to the wilderness, she lives by herself.
9. Last seen in the company of thieves- On her last day at work, Aibileen is accused of stealing Miss Elizabeth Leefolt's silver. But Aibileen did not steal anything. The true culprit is Hilly Holbrook, who steals away Aibileen's job when she convinces Elizabeth to fire Aibileen, even though Miss Elizabeth knows that Aibileen is innocent.
10. Has disciples- At first, Aibileen is the only maid who is willing to be interviewed by Skeeter. Then, Aibileen convinces her friend Minny to join. After Minny joins, she manages to convince eleven more maids to join the project. If it hadn't been for Aibileen, the other maids would have never been willing to help Skeeter.
When I first sat down to watch the film version of The Help I was hesitant. After all, most movies that are based on popular books fall flat, whether it be with poor casting choices or the complete failure to follow the book's plotline. But Tate Taylor's The Help is a complete enigma when it comes to the book-to-film stereotype. The movie catches its audience right away, not starting exactly where the book does, but instead in the middle of Skeeter and Aibileen's first interview. It then flashes back to where the book actually begins, and then continues from there with the rest of the story. The writers of the movie found very subtle ways to introduce details from the book. For example, in the book Skeeter directly says that her mother is ill, but in the movie it is implied with Mrs. Phelan's use of a wig. When I first started reading The Help I did not believe that a movie would do any justice to the fine details of the 400+ page novel. But the film makers included some details in the movie that I didn't even remember from the book, like Skeeter's lunch order at the diner and when Aibileen tells Minny to keep her hands off Miss Hilly's deviled eggs.
What truly made the film a pleasure to watch was not just those details, but watching the personalities of The Help's beloved characters come to life. The Help starred many talented actresses. Emma Stone brought her own youth into her portrayal of the young college graduate and writer Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, despite her looking absolutely nothing like the character. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer were fun to watch together, bringing reality to the iconic friendship of Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson. (And the infamous "pie scene" was probably the funniest moment in the entire movie.) Bryce Dallas Howard sent chills down the spine as the poisonous and awful Hilly Holbrook, but watching her lose to Skeeter was interesting. And finally Jessica Chastain brought my favorite character of The Help to life with her portrayal of Celia Foote. Her interactions with Octavia Spencer made me wonder if the two actresses were that funny together in real life.
The Help not only impressed me as a film, but also many others, as it grossed $169,708,112 in the United States alone.* It also received many award nominations including Academy Award for Best Picture and Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture-Drama. The film won many other awards including: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer), National Board of Review of Motion Pictures for Best Ensemble Cast, The Satellite Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Viola Davis), The BET Award for Best Movie, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Acting Ensemble.*
*Statistics and List of Awards from The Help (film) Wikipedia Page
I know that both the movie and book The Help will be classics that will be watched and read by people for many years to come.
Though their time periods, ages, looks, and locations are different, Aibileen Clark from The Help and Mariam from A Thousand Splendid Suns are more similar than they are different. Click on the document below to see just how alike these characters are.
The Help takes place in a tumultuous and developmental time in America: The Civil Rights Movement. Several events that were pertinent to the success of the Civil Rights Movement are mentioned in Kathryn Stockett's novel. But the movement was so much more that what can be touched on in a single historical fiction novel. To give more light to what was taking place in America in and around the time period of The Help I have created a timeline of the Civil Rights Movement.
1954: The court case of Brown Vs. The Board of Education makes segregation of the races illegal in American schools.
1955: Rosa Parks refuses of give up her seat to a white man on an Alabaman bus. Her actions cause a long boycott of the bus system.
1956: The Supreme Court rules segregation of buses in Montgomery, AL to be illegal.
1957: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is founded by Martin Luther King, Jr. Its mission is to work toward the equality of African Americans.
-In Little Rock, Arkansas members of the military escort several African American children safely into a newly desegregated school.
1958: Alvin Ailey founds the first all-black dance company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. They continue to perform today.
1960: A sit-in protest is hosted by several African American college students at a diner in North Carolina. This type of protest is used a lot later in the Civil Rights Movement.
1961: "Freedom rides" are organized by the Congress of Racial Equality to encourage the de-segregation of public transportation.
1963: Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his infamous "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. following a march. This is later known as the largest demonstration in this point of history.
-Later in the year, a bomb goes off in a Birmingham church, killing four young African-American girls.
-Martin Luther King, Jr. writes the "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."
-President John F. Kennedy, a huge supporter of Civil Rights and equality, is assassinated in Dallas, TX.
1964: The "Freedom Summer" organized by civil rights groups encourages African Americans to register as voters. This causes black voter registration to increase substantially, but three members of the CORE civil rights group are murdered.
-Pres. Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act. It gives the government the power to prosecute those who discriminate in employment, voting, and education.
-The Nobel Peace Prize is given to Civil Rights figure Martin Luther King, Jr.
1965: Civil Rights leader Malcolm X is assassinated.
-During a peaceful Civil Rights march in Alabama, police treat protesters very harshly. They beat them with their clubs and use tear gas.
-Race rights break out in Los Angeles, southing how the bulk of racism is not just in the South.
1966: The Black Panther Party is founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seales in California.
-Kwanzaa is founded!
1967: Thurgood Marshall becomes the first black member of the United States Supreme Court.
-Aretha Franklin records her first songs.
-Edward W. Brooke serves two terms as US Senator for Massachusetts.
1968: One of the most famous Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated.
1969: The first classical African American dance company, Dance Theatre of Harlem, is formed.
1971. Rev. Jesse Jackson creates Operation PUSH which encourages African American advances in education and economics.
1972: The Equal Employment Opportunity Act is passed.
1982: Thriller becomes one of the best-selling albums of all time.
1983: Vanessa Williams is the first black Miss America.
1984: The Cosby Show helps to eliminate negative black-stereotypes on American television.
1986: MLK Day is founded as a national holiday.
1989: Colin Powell is the first black chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States military.
-The Oprah Winfrey Show goes on air.
1994: OJ Simpson is arrested for the murder of his wife.
1996: In the south, 40 churches with mostly-black attendees are burned.
1997: Michael Jordan leads the Chicago Bulls to victory.
-Tiger Woods wins the Masters.
2000: Venus Williams wins a title at Wimbledon.
2001: Pres. George W. Bush appoints Colin Powell to Secretary of State.
2002: Halle Berry wins the Academy Award for Best Actress.
2012: Trayvon Martin is killed in Florida, sparking discussion about modern prejudices in America.
"Timeline: Civil Rights Era (1954-1971)." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 25 Nov.