by Kathryn Stockett
Analysis: What's Up With the Ending?
We want a sequel! We want a sequel!
There. Just had to get that off our chest (yes, Shmoop has a chest). Don't get us wrong, we find the ending of The Help highly satisfying. We just can't get enough of her writing. OK, then, let's recap:
The book Help is selling well and providing income for the women whose stories are featured in it. Skeeter Phelan gets a job as a copywriter's assistant (got to start somewhere) at Harper's Magazine in New York City and is stopping off in Chicago to visit Constantine's grave.
Minny Jackson has a lifetime position with the Footes and has moved out of Jackson to Canton, near the Footes' home. Hopefully, neither her abusive husband Leroy, nor her arch-nemesis Hilly will be able to hurt her now.
Aibileen is finally retiring from her lifelong career, and using her expertise to write the Miss Myrna column. She leaves the Leefolts satisfied that she's provided young Mae Mobley with the self-love and other skills she needs to survive in her society and, hopefully, to resist the racist ideas being drilled into her. Since Aibileen stays in Jackson, she's close enough to keep tabs on Mae Mobley and be there if the girl needs her, one way or the other.
What We Want to Know
But, there are still so many loose ends! We've come to love these characters so much that it's painful not knowing the rest of their stories – every little bit of it. We want desperately to find out what happens when Skeeter goes to visit Constantine's grave. Will she meet up with Lulabelle, Constantine's daughter who's about Skeeter's same age? What love, what heartbreak, what adventures will she have in the Big Apple?
We want to get to know Minny's kids – Leroy Junior, Benny, Felicia, Sugar, and Kindra – better and see what they are like as grown-ups. We want to stay a while longer with Minny and Celia in the kitchen, and to know all Minny's latest adventures, trials, and tribulations. We want to know which books Aibileen will write, and if she, in her newfound leisure time, will find the romance she's given up on. We also want to follow Mae Mobley, to see where life takes her, and to see how her relationship with Aibileen impacts her life.
Part of why we are so eager to follow these characters is because the ending focuses on their clearer vision and on their real potential for renewal, for change, for rejuvenation. Starting a new life is always intriguing and exciting. On that note, we'll leave you with the last lines of the novel, with Aibileen's final thoughts as she walks home after being fired by Elizabeth and parting from Mae Mobley:
Maybe I ought to keep writing, not just for the paper, but something else, about all the people I know, and all the things I seen and done. Maybe I ain't too old to start over, I think and I laugh and I cry at the same time at this. Cause just last night I thought I was finished with everything new. (34.231)
Now that's good stuff! The ending of The Help wants us to believe that it's never too late to follow our dreams and get a fresh start, as long as we have a little help from our friends.
Can't get enough of The Help? Wish you could read a book like Help? Try Telling Memories Among Southern Woman In The Segregated South by Susan Tucker. Kathryn Stockett cites the book, which features oral histories of women like those featured in The Help, in her acknowledgments page.