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I had to re-read The Help when I saw this discussion thread.
Which characters did you find most likable and sympathetic? I liked Aibileen, her character was so well written, with courage and fears, sadness and joy. I felt so sorry for Celia trying so hard and just not getting it, she needed a mentor but the
To what extent do you think a person's flaws, such as racist attitudes and behaviors, can be forgiven because it is the norm in the surrounding culture? This is a very interesting, thoughtful question. I do think that social norms of the day allowed the inequalities to go on. Change usually comes slow and painfully, and in the case of the relationships between the races, it had been that way for more than 100 years. We look back now and say, how could that be, but it took a forward thinker (Dr. King) to begin the change in attitude that still strives to progress today.
Could you sympathize with Miss Hilly? I could not sympathize with Miss Hilly, ignorance and prejudice would be her banner no matter what time she lived in.
Do you think it is possible to be a good mother despite deep character flaws? We are all the sum total of our character flaws, aren’t we?
What motivated Aibileen? The juxtaposition of four things I think led to her decision to tell her story –
1. Her son’s death and the loss of his original book idea
2. Skeeter’s question about change
3. The construction of the outdoor bathroom with Mae Mobley using it
4. Aibileen’s fervent desire for Mae Mobley to stay sweet and color-blind, not to turn into a prejudiced, bigot like her mother.
What did you think about Minny's revenge? Actually, I thought that was awful. I was surprised that Hilly didn’t have her arrested then and there.
How much do you think the dynamics of relationships between black people and white people have changed? Some, but there will still always be those that judge. This is true in every culture. While I think there has been progress, there is still a way to go, on both sides.
Rate The Help on a scale of 1 to 5. 5!!
Just recently, heard very good things about The Help from a co-worker. The book + DVD are making the rounds where I work. I'll wait a month or so and borrow it from whichever saint it lending out the set.
To what extent do you think a person's flaws, such as racist attitudes and behaviors, can be forgiven because it is the norm in the surrounding culture?
That's a really loaded question. I've never lived in a racist area so it's kind of hard to say but I think it depends on what is at stake. If it's just peer pressure or social consequences I don't think that is good enough grounds for racism. In locations like the one in book if someone was seen as being a friend to the black people they would possibly be socially shunned but it could also affect the men's careers. A politician would have a harder time getting elected or a businessman may not get promoted. That makes the stakes higher but I think it still can't really be excused. My dad is all German and while we know nothing about our German great-grandparents from the poverty they came here with I doubt they were anything but lower class in Germany but I really have no way of knowing. There's no way to know how they behaved during the war, I just hope no one was an idiot. That may make me a little more sympathetic to the atrocities the average German people put up with but I do think they didn't have a whole lot of choice. Several very brave Germans tried on separate occasions to overthrow or at least sideline Hitler and they all failed and paid dearly so we know that at least some of them weren't very happy about the situation. The basic man on the street faced death or worse if they were accused of being a sympathizer so I can see their compliance a little better. It takes a lot more to risk your life to go against the grain than it does to risk your social standing or your career. It goes a lot deeper than that, many people didn't just comply but participated and that's a little different, but that's the basics of how I feel. There wasn't as much at stake in the south but I can understand why it was allowed to happen. It's so hard to say when you aren't the one who is risking anything but I would hope I wouldn't care enough about social standing to act like some of the characters did.
What motivated Aibileen?
She knew if she didn't do it no one else would and if they didn't their story would never be known. Us northerners really had/have no idea what it was like down there, the more I learn about the south the more it scares me.
What did you think about Minny's revenge?
That was nasty. I don't blame her but gross. I can't really see anyone actually doing something like that but I've never been oppressed like that either. Minny definitely had a chop on her shoulder but it's hard to blame her. I would have thought they all would have been angrier.
How much do you think the dynamics of relationships between black people and white people have changed?
Hard to say since I've never lived anywhere that had a black/white dynamic. There were no black people where I lived in Illinois when I was a kid and Phoenix has a very small black population. One place I worked they hired a black lady who was directly from Mississippi and after she had been here a week or so she came in one day and asked me what we did with all the black people in this town. She couldn't find any.
Geez, I've been working on that off and on for 2 hours.
Last Edited on: 6/10/12 7:58 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Barb, in the south, the stakes were very high for going against the societal norm. Black people could have their homes firebombed or they could be murdered by lynching or being dragged from a rope tied to a vehicle. Warnings came in the form of burning crosses on their front lawns courtesy of the Ku Klux Klan. White sympathizers could also be killed, or their homes set on fire. It went way beyond just social shunning. The threat and fear of violence was very real. The rise of the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s brought a lot of the violence to a head, race riots occurred in the south as passive measures failed to get results, like the four black students sitting at a white lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. It took four separate acts of Congress to give the black community the right to sit where they wanted, eat where they wanted, vote, attend desegretated school, and end legal discrimination in hiring and employment. The time that the book is set in, was full of tension and racial strife, and the ever present threat of violence. Even today, we aren't there in terms of racial equality. To this day we have people that were in a panic over having a black president.
Although I did live through that time, I was a child, and didn't know that our African American housekeeper had these things ever present in her mind until I was older. I do remember being taught that things were as they were, and I was not to question it. But, I did question this as I entered college in the early 70s. I had the benefit of having the the law in place when I was studying civics in high school, and sitting in a racially diverse classroom in college. However, you have to remember that the adults at that time had been taught by their parents, and those by their parents that their way of thinking was right. It was ingrained into the white upbringing. Does it excuse it? No. But it does explain it.