The Help shows us the inner workings of a segregated society against the backdrop of the growing US Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Although there is some variety in economic and social class, race is the number one determinant of a person's place in Stockett's Jackson, Mississippi. Race also determines who has access to educational, occupational, and economic opportunity. Racial tensions are high as white community members employ violence and coercion to try to keep the Civil Rights Movement from sweeping into their Mississippi town. At the same time, it shows us how, against all odds, Skeeter, a white woman, daughter of a cotton family, joins together with Aibileen and Minny, two black women who work as maids, to challenge the unfair practices that make the lives of the town's black members so difficult.
Questions About Society and Class
- When Aibileen gets the Miss Myrna job at the end of the novel, does this signify that the society is changing?
- Celia doesn't even seem aware of false stereotypes about black people. Why?
- How does Celia's past poverty influence her views on social class? Does she get over wanting to join Hilly and the gang by the end of the novel?
- How does this community compare with your own? What are the similarities? The differences?
- How has Jackson, Mississippi changed since the 1960s when The Help was set?