The Help written by Kathryn Stockett is set in the early 1960’s in civil-rights-era Jackson, Mississippi. The main focus of the story is how a well-educated young woman, Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan wants to become a renowned writer, even though the majority of her friends are more focused on making families and finding the right man.
Eugenia — who is working as a column-writer on cleaning — asks a black maid, Aibileen, to gather ‘the help’ so she can get their views and compile a narrative. Aibileen is at first, under the impression that Eugenia, like other white women, would treat her narrative with unfairness and belittle her feelings. However, it is after a few meetings that the black maids decide on becoming interviewees for Eugenia Phelan. Eugenia then compiles the book and sends it off for publication, naming the book The Help. This book is a wonderful insight into the unfairness with which African-American maids were treated just a few decades ago.
Skeeter, who is a fresh college graduate, is pressured by her mother into thinking her degree is a useless piece of paper and that she should be married as soon as possible. However, Skeeter is a passionate and driven writer, who wants to stick to her job, writing columns about cooking and cleaning homes, as a way of getting closer to her goal of becoming a writer/editor at a real publishing house. But she knows nothing about this topic, as all this is taken care of by what is called ‘the help’, essentially maids. She soon realises that ‘the help’ which consists mostly of black maids, are treated horribly and work in deplorable conditions. She talks to Minny and Aibileen, both black maids working for white families, but who are strong, determined and incredible women. Through their perspectives she sees their unfair life and how hard they work just to survive. At the household where Minny first works, they force her to use a different bathroom because they believe she carries a disease just for being black. Skeeter, along with the help of Minny and Aibileen, starts working on a book highlighting the struggles of ‘the help’. It gains national attention and opens everyone’s eyes..
The Help highlights how similar, as humans, we all are, no matter the race. We all have struggles and fears and we all want to live our best lives, as well as be respected. It’s a great story to painfully remind us of racial injustices and to give us insight into how much progress was made for civil rights in 1960’s America.