The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, is a novel that follows the lives of several black maids in 1960’s Jackson, Mississippi. It was written in 2009, so it’s still too new to be considered a part of the canon. The Maids, and a young white college grad named Skeeter, come together to write a tell-all book about working as a colored maid in the deep South. Their union for a common purpose is critical to the plot of the novel because their choices could severely damage their somewhat “peaceful” small town lives. The novel forces us to look at differences between society for white people and black people in the 1960’s South. It begs us to ask questions exploring race, identity, agency, and the cultural and societal constructs, that were all a central part of why segregation existed in the first place.
I read the book in High school, and have since, always considered the novel one of my favorites. My memory of the book is a bit cloudy now, so I want to read it again. I like that it explores the inequalities of the time, as well the unique relationships between black nannies and the white children they looked after. I think those relationships are so important in the novel because it draws attention to the inconsistencies of institutionalized racism. In my research I expect to find articles discussing the roles of African American women versus White women, problems with Identity, social norms defining racism, and it’s cultural constructs. I have found five articles exploring themes in the novel on Google scholar, and several more through the College of Charleston library database. A couple examples of the articles I’ve found include Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I Am Not Her Help by Duchess Harris and Regulating Race on the Toilet in Kathryn Stockett’s The Help by Christopher Lloyd.