Many years ago, when I fancied myself a writer of sorts, I wrote a brief manifesto on writing in which I stated a good writer has the ability to elicit strong emotions from his/her audience. A good writer can make the reader laugh, cry, scream, or throw the book across the room. By this definition, Kathryn Stockett is a good writer. The Help moved me to laughter and tears more than once. The poignancy of Aibileen's love for the children she tended to and her own son who didn't make it past his early twenties reminded me of my own childhood babysitter Neen-Neen. Her real name is Evelene, but as children, my sisters and I could not pronounce "Evelene," so she became Neen-Neen to us, and she always will be. When I got married last November, Neen-Neen and her sisters sat in the pews with my family because she is my family. Yes, some white mistresses, like Hilly Holbrook, did horrible things to their maids, but often the bond between family and maid was tight and full of love. I am under no circumstances condoning the mistreatment of others, but I think The Help really captures that perilous and tenuous line that both maids and the families they served walked between love and servitude. Everyone is caught up and constrained by their titles, which makes it difficult to move or breathe. Nowhere is that more evident than in the story of Constantine and Skeeter's mother. Although the movie took some creative liberties with this scene, the image of Skeeter's mother, literally caught between the DAR biddies and her love for Constantine, highlights this conflict. Unfortunately, she conceded to the pressures of her life as a white woman in the South. Her tearful sorrow over that fact later in the film does little to assuage her previous actions.
Stockett's novel is timely because prejudice and racial injustice of all types still exists - God only knows why, and I think Stockett realizes this, so she, like Skeeter, wrote about what disturbed her, but unlike Skeeter, I think Stockett lacked the bravery to write about what was happening in the here and now - not that that diminishes the power of her novel or the film. I think the film is such a success because it captures the true essence of the book.
Best matched with the courageous, Southern spirit that exists in Southern women of all backgrounds.