Kathyrn Stockett: An Intuitive Look at Race

I have to admit that I find it almost amusing that critics have worried more about the connotations of white author Kathryn Stockett writing in a black woman’s voice, then about the subject matter of her book.

The Help, an incredibly intuitive novel, takes the reader on a journey to Jackson, Mississippi during the 60s when segregation was still forced by law.

Stockett doesn’t hold back in her prose, which is something for which readers can be eternally grateful.

Instead, the author gets inside the minds of Southern women during that time period, black and white, in order to explore the divisions and connections between them.

The novel inspires readers to re-evaluate the often one-dimensional interpretation of those horrible times by supposing, quite rightly, that there were people on both sides, who bridged the gap between races.

Stockett’s story doesn’t demonise the characters, but shows a delightful three-dimensional side of the human experience.

Ambiguity

If anything could potentially be learned from reading The Help, it is that the ambiguity of characters is not an easy thing to accomplish in the type of story that usually promotes religious agendas of good versus evil.

Stockett’s novel doesn’t set up camp within a comfort zone, but instead explores a higher truth by depicting white Southerners, who are just as trapped as their oppressed black maids and blacks, who live life freer and braver than any other characters in the book.

This is the strength of the novel, its unwillingness to conform to a preconceived notion about segregation in 1960s America.

No doubt, the author drew from her own experiences as a daughter of Mississippi. We can only imagine that her characters are based on people she knew growing up there.

The Help has moments of tenderness and connection between people that are surprising and beautiful, showing the strength of all women despite the hardships of those times.

Stockett’s novel is filled to the brim with human problems that are anything but black and white, which makes it an important and timely book for Americans and those, who wish to understand the culture in light of its slow but progressive changes in regards to race.

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