Race is not a neutral concept in The Help – 1960s Jackson, Mississippi is one heck of a segregated society. Still firmly stuck in the Jim Crow era, there are strict rules, laws, and norms restricting the lives of the black townspeople. These rules also restrict white people who want to cross the color line.
Kathryn Stockett's novel unflinchingly explores the worst of the false stereotypes about black people – that they are lazy, dirty, carry diseases, and are in general less intelligent and less valuable than whites. She shows how these fictions are woven into the fabric of everyday life in Jackson, from the laws to ordinary conversations, and how these beliefs get passed from generation to generation. It shows a deep mistrust of whites on the part of the black community, who have been betrayed by them again and again. It also shows how powerful and how dangerous it can be to challenge the stereotypes and dissolve the lines that are meant to separate people from each other on the basis of skin color.