Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The truths in “The Help” December 1, 2011

The large print version of The Help.

THREE MONTHS AGO I reviewed “The Help,” a movie based on the New York Times bestseller by Kathryn Stockett. (Read that review by clicking here.)

I wrote then:

In a nutshell, “The Help” tells the story of black women working as maids in upper class Southern white households during the 1960s.

It is that and more. So much more.

Yesterday I stole away 10 minutes to finish the final chapter of The Help. My opinion of the book rates as high as my opinion of the movie. Everyone ought to read this novel and see this movie.

Why?

Although a work of fiction, this book speaks the truth.

Let me show you. While reading The Help, I jotted three page numbers onto a scrap of paper, noting passages that especially struck me.

In chapter 17, from the perspective of Minny, a “colored” maid, are these thoughts:

But truth is, I don’t’ care that much about voting. I don’t care about eating at a counter with white people. What I care about is, if in ten years, a white lady will call my girls dirty and accuse them of stealing the silver.

Consider those words. Do attitudes of “stealing the silver” still linger today?

Near the end of the book, in chapter 34, I came across this line:

Please, Minny, I think. Please, take this chance to get out.

Aibileen wishes this as she speaks on the phone with her friend Minny, who has hunkered down in a gas station after fleeing her abusive husband. Minny finally finds the courage to leave Leroy.

Personal courage, in my summation, is a reoccurring theme in The Help—courage to speak up, courage to be true to yourself, courage to escape abuse.

I would like to see copies of The Help placed in every women’s shelter, given to every victim of domestic abuse, handed to every woman trying to muster the courage to flee an abusive relationship. Stockett’s writing on the topic is that powerful, that motivating, that moving.

Profound, strong words of encouragement for anyone who's been abused, known someone who's been or is being abused, or is currently in an abusive relationship.

Finally, a few pages later I found this passage, a favorite line from the movie and repeated in the book by Mae Mobley, the little girl in maid Aibileen’s care:

“You is kind,” she say, “you is smart. You is important.”

Aibileen ingrained that phrase in Mae Mobley, a child mostly ignored by her mother.

How often do we tell our children, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important” and really, truly, mean it?

IF YOU’VE READ The Help, what nuggets did you glean from this book? What themes or passages made a lasting impression on you?

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling