Black stands for many things, and its meaning might vary from one person to another. Some might consider it a symbol of sadness and grief, while others might see a kind of mystery in it. Few will merely see it as a phenomenon of light that gives an object a distinguishing aspect, just like red, blue, or green. However, for a great number of people, black is history; it is the struggle that African-American had to endure in order to obtain their freedom and be treated like human beings.
In her famous novel entitled The Help, Kathryn Stockett elaborates on this idea by giving a very personal account of the situation of black helpers who, at a time where black people had no choice but to work for rich white families, faced abuse, humiliation, and severe punishments, simply due to their skin colour.
Set in Jackson, Mississippi during the African-American Civil Rights Movement, the book draws a daily-life representation of the long-time conflict between black and white and the climax of the racial segregation in the mid-20th century. The story is narrated by three different characters: Aibileen, the loving helper who has raised about seventy white child, Minny, a stubborn and hot-headed maid who’s always in an entertaining dispute with her mistress, Miss Hilly, and Skeeter, the controversial white woman who wants to share the maids’ stories about racism and the unfair treatment they’re receiving in a book she’s writing.
What’s interesting about the book is the realism attached to every detail and every character, with their flaws, problems, imperfect physical aspect, and manifestation of the cause that prevailed back then. Moreover, the book is dedicated to the “help”, a group of black maids who take care of the upper-class white people’s homes and children and painfully watch these children grow to become as racist as their parents.
However, many of them try to change this mentality and prevent the children from becoming hypocrites and cruel, including Aibileen, whose attachment to baby Mae Mobley and her motherly instinct make her jeopardize her job and her life, in the purpose of teaching the child that race shouldn’t separate them.
In this book, Kathryn Stockett explores different kinds of emotions: sadness, anger, happiness, mirth, heartbreak and many more, and the casual, everyday incidents seem to be very credible and engaging.
Thus, it would be absorbing and untypical to read something that has a different perspective, which introduces the reader to the minds of these unfortunate maids who, even today, still lack some of their freedom.
Sana Abou Ali
Added 13th December 2015