The Help By Kathryn Stockett

Nature of Racism in the Novel The Help By Kathryn Stockett: Is It Inherent or Taught?

The Help is a novel by Kathryn Stockett, published in 2009. The story is about African-American maids working for white employers in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960s.

It took Stockett five years to complete the book. It was rejected by at least 60 agents before its final approval. It has since been published in many countries in three different languages. The major theme across this novel is a racism that had a long-standing presence in customs, law and how people interacted (Susan, 2012). It seeks to explain the effects that racism, bitterness and injustice had on African-American maids who worked for their white employers.

The author confesses in her analysis that it is completely impossible to tell an honest story in a dishonest society (Susan, 2012). The southern white women ignore the impact racial inequality had on the lives of their African-American maids. This brought trouble in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 – a time during which troubling social relations were underway. The white women were aware of what they were doing to their maids, but still wanted to keep their racial privileges (White, 2011). The writer explores what happens when the victims of this racism break this ring of ignored wrongs. The African-American maids themselves decided not to face the social and racial wrongs they were facing – they pretended not to see and hear the atrocities against them to protect themselves from trouble (Susan, 2012). They were deeply disturbed by what is happening, but kept their expression quiet in their inner being. The blacks were afraid of breaking the code of ungratefulness towards them. This fear created a society in which people pretended to be fine, yet they had burdens of secrets in their hearts. Animosity and grudges brewed up as a result of cruelty and disregard to each other. Racism was being practiced, yet both parties who are participants in it outwardly pretend that it is non-existent.

One young woman known as ‘Skeeter’ for her tall, skinny’ unfeminine’ figure breaked this code of racial discrimination. This was against the unexpected norm where white women supported racial discrimination as a tool to fit their personal needs. Skeeter having graduated from college was frustrated with the idea of marriage and children, as was the route for all white women (Susan, 2012). Skeeter decided that she would not ignore this racial wrong and embarked on writing about the lives of African-American maids (White, 2011). She sought support of Aibileen, who was mourning the death of her son and Minny, a wonderful cook who could not keep her mouth shut and was fired severally for speaking out her disgrace (Susan, 2012).

The whites in this novel would do anything to keep racism at its peak. Hilly, a southern white lady was mentioned as one of those who promoted racism. The courage to say what is true, write and live what is true, was extremely difficult amongst many African-American maids. Minny thought of what she had bottled up for long, but decided to keep it to herself for fear of losing work (White, 2011). Skeeter discovered the underlying hate for white women by black women and ‘the inexplicable love’. The largest burden fell on African-American maids who were weak and wanted to protect their lives (Susan, 2012). When Skeeter published her stories, the three women (African-American maids) paid a price.

From the analysis of this novel, we see that white women naturally looked down upon their African-American counterparts. They lacked concrete reasons for their feelings and when their children were brought up, they chose this culture and embraced it as being normal. A critical analysis of racism is that it could first be self-taught then continually practiced until it became inherent. Racism had vastly affected African-American negatively and insulted them. They were viewed as lesser beings by the white women who were their employers.

Brooks, Susan. (2012). The Help: Race, Religion and Sin. Retrieved from south/2011/08/12/gIQAsS0UBJ_blog.html.
John, Leigh. (2012). The Help: The Racial Question. Michigan: Benjamin Cunnings Publishers.
White, Brian. (2011). The Help: A Summary of Thematic Issues. Denver: BB Publishing Firm.