The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Here are the discussion question as well as comments made from different members of this group.
1. Who was your favorite character? Why?
Across the board, all participating members in this discussion agreed that the favorite was Aibileen. Lisa from Lit and Life also thought maybe Skeeter as well as Skeeter was willing to stand up for herself no matter what the cost.
2. What do you think motivated Hilly? On the one hand she is terribly cruel to Aibileen and her own help, as well as to Skeeter once she realizes that she can’t control her. Yet she’s a wonderful mother. Do you think that one can be a good mother but, at the same time, a deeply flawed person?
Laurel from Laurel Rain Snow Reflections says that while Hilly was a good mom, her prejudices color her judgment. As Lisa states, Hilly is a product of her own upbringing.
3. Like Hilly, Skeeter’s mother is a prime example of someone deeply flawed yet somewhat sympathetic. She seems to care for Skeeter–and she also seems to have very real feelings for Constantine. Yet the ultimatum she gives to Constantine is untenable; and most of her interaction with Skeeter is critical. Do you think Skeeter’s mother is a sympathetic or unsympathetic character? Why?
Esme from Chocolates and Croissants describes Skeeter’s mom as sympathetic or possibly pathetic. She wants what she feels is best for her daughter and in her eyes that is marriage and a good solid one at that.
4. How much of a person’s character would you say is shaped by the times in which they live?
Julie of My Own Little Corner Of The World says that the times in which a person lives has a lot to do with their character. Look at todays teeenagers, theyw ould not have survived these times. Kids were more respectful and obedient of their parents. Laurel adds that it takes an exceptional person to move out of the mold of the world.
5. Did it bother you that Skeeter is willing to overlook so many of Stuart’s faults so that she can get married, and that it’s not until he literally gets up and walks away that the engagement falls apart?
Sheila (me) says yes, I dislike it when a woman undersetimates her worth to any man. I was thankful that in the end Skeeter held true to who she was. I think even Skeeter’s mom in the end started to see that her daughter really could take care of herself.
6. Do you believe that Minny was justified in her distrust of white people?
All agreed that due to the experiences that Minny had with white people, she had no reason to trust them.
7. Do you think that had Aibileen stayed working for Miss Elizabeth, that Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother? Do you think racism is inherent, or taught?
Taught! Sheila (me) thinks that Aibileen made a good effort to teach Mae Mobley about seeing people for who they are not for the color of their skin. Hopefully, we as the readers are left to believe that this will stick with Mae Mobley through the years.
8. From the perspective of a twenty-first century reader, the hairshellac system that Skeeter undergoes seems ludicrous. Yet women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of “beauty” changes with the times. Looking back on your past, what’s the most ridiculous beauty regimen you ever underwent?
Julie: If I had to pick one I would say the tube of toohtpaste used to get rid of pimples as a teenager
Esme: For me, it was just getting the routine down as a teen – from showering to make up, etc…
Laurel: Sleeping with my head in those giant rollers!
Lisa: Well, it used to be perms and now it is straightening my hair on a daily basis
Sheila: Had to be the spiral perms that were all teh rage. It would take 4 hours in the salon to wrap my hair in those long twisty rods.
9. The author manages to paint Aibileen with a quiet grace and an aura of wisdom about her. How do you think she does this?
Julie: Aibileen’s character shows this in how she treats Mae Mobley…. patiently teaching.
Sheila: Maybe because she has helped raise 17 children she has learned to see what these children are not gettingfor their parents by being torn down so she has trained herself to build them up.
10. Do you think there are still vestiges of racism in relationships where people of color work for people who are white? Have you heard stories of parents who put away their valuable jewelry before their nanny comes? Paradoxically, they trust the person to look after their child but not their diamond rings?
Esme: Racism does still exist today, whether it is directed at a person of color, religion, or sexual beliefs. My favorite is when you are in a group and someone says something about a group they find out you are part of and then says, “Oh but not you…” The nanny example is great – they are good enough to be trusted with the child, but not the diamonds.
11. What did you think about Minny’s pie for Miss Hilly? Would you have gone as far as Minny did for revenge?
Sheila: Oh! I had to read that twice to make sure I got that right…. LOL. I cant imagine myself going that far, but Minny’s character? Absolutely!
Laurel: Probably not but I did get a chuckle out of it.
Lisa: Yuck! I was more than grossed out by the pie thing! Nope, I would not do such a thing.
Julie: Loved it! I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to do such a thing. It was very creative and I loves the :gotcha” feel to it. It made the book so much more effective for me.
12. Would you recommend this book to a friend?
Julie: I would – yes! It is the best book I have read in 2009 so far. I couldn’t put it down!
Esme: Definitely-this is a beautiful story about love, relationships, trust and life in the South in the early 60’s. While I was not old enough during that time to remember the problems nor did I live in the South I think the book has given an accurate description of how life was for blacks and whites. It describes the frustration of blacks, due to segregation, their hope they must have had in MLK and Kennedy and their aspiration for their children. For the women of the novel, their roles were very defined. To be a good mother and wife. You have women in the book that supposedly had a higher education yet they were content not to graduate and keep a nice home. Their beliefs in segregation were those that were defined for them by their society. They were quick to adopt these beliefs and not question them.
Lisa: I have already recommended this book to a lot of people. I think it is a wonderful look at a time and place.
Laurel: Yes! It was a book that spotlighted a time that I remember well, I did not (nor do I now) live in the South, I was part of the civil rights movement in the 60’s.
Sheila: Oh yeah! I have never read anything like this before and I really enjoyed it. This book is a keeper for me and I highly recommend it!
You can see members of the Word Shakers On Line Book Clubs Personal reviews on this book here:
Watch for the next Word Shakers book choice to be posted soon! All are welcome to join! See how here!
Have you read The Help? We would love for you to join in this discussion. What are your thoughts on any of the questions above?