A review of the movie adaptation of this novel by Kathryn Stockett is available here.
Book Review of The HelpThis memorable novel demonstrates the power of courage to increase resilience in the lives of ordinary people. Against the law and the culture in which they lived, a young white woman and two African American domestic workers create a bond, share their stories, engage in civil disobedience and effect positive change in their community. The novel is set in 1960's Jackson, Mississippi (USA), a racially segregated culture. At great personal risk, three women playfully and systematically forge alliances and make stands and continue the effort to effect positive cultural change.
The film shows how African American domestic workers, called “The Help,” reared the children of their white employers. The Help were often the felt mothers of these children. Yet when these white children whom they reared became adults they sometimes became “just like their parents” in their treatment of The Help due to a cultural peer pressure and adjustment to cultural norms.
Nuances in roles and relationship are acknowledged in the film. In some cases The Help were treated with respect and affection and became extended family of and their employing families. In other cases they were abused and the legal and political system of the time always supported the employing whites since they controlled the legal and political system at that time.
In the end, this is a heart warming story of how courage looks in a particular setting. You see courage in the way these women risked their freedom and their lives to tell their stories. In doing so, they broke out of their cultural prison and became free in a way that no legal system can take away. They became free on the inside. They gain their freedom when they tell their stories by writing them down in a book and publishing them for the world to see how the ugly features of how their culture had a different set of rules depending on the color of your skin.
One take away for resilient communities and individuals is to know your opponent and exploit their weaknesses. When an opponent' behavior is predictable is becomes exploitable. For instance, one of the African American maids knows that if they include in the book a particularly embarrassing story about one of the white women employers, they will have power over her and it works. After publication of the story, the white woman, the antagonist in the story, becomes trapped by the chains of the very culture she strives to uphold to her own personal advantage.
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