Set against the volatile backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, The Help looks at how the white community in a Mississippi town uses physical and other forms of violence against its black citizens to try to stop the flow of change. It explores domestic and workplace violence through Leroy's beating of Minny, Elizabeth's beating of Mae Mobley, and through the stories of the maids who have been raped and brutalized on the job by their employers. When Hilly uses her influence to have Yule May sentenced to four years in the state penitentiary, we can see how the legal and penal systems can be used to inflict violence as well.
And the violence doesn't stop there – The Help also looks at the violence of laws and speech that teach hate in the first place, and the power of loving speech to counteract all of that. Although violence is always present in the novel, its major focus is on those kind and loving acts that work to diffuse it. When we say diffuse it, we mean in the big-picture, long-term sense of the word. We would argue that the book Help, featuring the stories of the Jackson maids, works to diffuse violence by exposing it. But all of the women in the book are at risk of some severe repercussions by telling their stories at all. Would you risk your life to bring something important before the public eye?