The Help Cover

The Help

Kathryn Stockett

A novel about sharing the stories of African American maids working in white households during the 1960s.

All my life I'd been told what to believe about politics, coloreds, being a girl. But with Constantine's thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe.

The Help focuses on the lives of three women in 1962, Jackson, Mississippi: Aibileen, Minny and Miss Skeeter. Aibileen is a fifty-three-year-old black housemaid and nanny who works for the rich white households of Mississippi, raising her seventeenth white child and suffering from the death of her own son. Minny is Aibileen’s best friend, the wife of Leroy and mother of their five children, she works as a cleaner and renown cook for white families. Minny is the subject of abuse by her husband and Hilly Holbrook – a sinister white employer. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan lives a different life to Aibileen and Minny, twenty-three, white and educated – having recently completed a college degree, Skeeter has a trust fund courtesy of her family’s cotton plantation. Having been a member of high-class society since birth, recently she has grown to distance herself from her fellow social group and started to gain friendship in the black community. Spurred by her love for her the family housekeeper Constantine and her friendship with the black women in her community, Skeeter wants to write a book that features stories about the lives of the black women in her hometown, giving them a voice and speaking out against the oppression.

The Help was a monumental bestseller upon release. Widely well-received, it created a tidal wave of recommendations from booksellers and book clubs alike. Through The Help Stockett creates rich, vivid characters whose personalities connect with the audience and have you rooting for them every step of the way. The blend of comedy, oppression and the fight for social justice make this debut novel enjoyable and powerful, a treat for readers while feeling culturally significant. The Help is rare for its complete female perspective – offering insight into the lives of three women without a focus on male input; what’s more, the women are shown to share their voice despite huge risk and disapproval from their peers. The novel should be applauded for its empowerment of women, showing them as strong, skilled, intelligent voices in society but also as kind, caring and loving – a staple of both family life and community.

How do you feel about the inclusion of a white female as a central character as well as the two black female central characters. Do you think that too much importance is placed on Skeeter and does it detract from the theme of the story – giving voice to the oppressed black minority?

Which character did you most empathise with and why?

How does the mysterious disappearance of Constantine add to the novel?

Aibileen has a strong bond to the white children she raises, what does this connote?

Men take a minor role in the novel, even Skeeter’s editor is a woman, what effect does this have? How does this contrast common conceptions of society at this time?

Do you think the use of three main characters gives the novel a more complete view of women at this time? Does this have any other effect?

How did you feel about the ending of the novel, Skeeter accepting the job offer in New York? How is her life likely to change compared to that of Aibileen and Minny?

Why do you think the character of Hilly Holbrook is so oppressive and what does she represent?


From speaking to her mother and Aibileen, Skeeter learns of Constantine’s death and how she was fired after a dispute between Skeeter’s mother and Constantine’s daughter Lulabelle. Constantine subsequently moved away to Chicago with Lulabelle and passed away three months later. Skeeter mails the manuscript of the book compiled with the maids’ stories off to her editor, Elaine Stein; it is titled ‘Help’. Stuart proposes to Skeeter but withdraws his proposal after learning of her affiliation with ‘Help’. Meanwhile, all those involved wait in angst for the publication of the book. Upon its release, Hilly Holbrook suspects the book to be based on events featuring Jackson and starts to spread word hoping to rally against the maids. Her actions stop once she learns she in incriminated in the final passages and so she contradicts her earlier suggestion about the books setting to try and disguise references to her. She does, however, hold bitter anger towards all those involved in the book and upon confronting Skeeter, vows revenge against them.

Skeeter receives a job offer in New York which she takes with the insistence of Aibileen and Minny. She arranges for Aibileen to replace her as a columnist at the local magazine. Hilly Holbrook causes Minny’s husband Leroy to be fired – placing the blame on Minny which aggravates Leeroy leading him to try and kill Minny. Minny flees the town with her children. Meanwhile, Hilly Holbrook tries to have Aibileen fired by attempting to convince Elizabeth that Aibileen has been stealing silver, although Elizabeth doesn’t believe Hilly, she does fire Aibileen.

Stockett supposedly wrote the character of Minny based on the actress Octavia Spencer who subsequently played her in the motion picture adaptation.

View this post on Instagram

BOOK REVIEW ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Help by Kathryn Stockett • I genuinely love this book. There's layers and layers to this story that touch upon so many different aspects of life, but it also attempts to have a difficult discussion about racism. The characters themselves are so varied – there are all sorts of different backgrounds, classes, education levels, marital status… these ladies are all over the place. So if you're looking at this book purely as sociology and fiction intertwined, I feel it has a lot of content. But that's not what I love about it. I love how much I HATE Hilly Holbrook. I love how much I am rooting for Aibileen to get through to little Mae Mobly and that her lessons are remembered. I love the way Skeeter finds the confidence to ignore family and peer pressure and to choose her values over a man who likes her, but could never support her ideals. I love the bits and pieces of bravery woven into this story that make it beautiful. And, so sue me, I freaking LOVE Minny's pie. Also her relationship with Celia Foote and how between Minny and Footes, there are no lines. It's the sort of relationship that sort of gives you hope for the rest of the book characters – these are not all bigots and racists. There are some people who see everyone as just that: people. At the end of the day, I feel 100% confident in recommending this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, stories about strong women, and honestly just a good fiction novel. Please do check out some OwnVoices reviews to get an accurate feel for the voice and racial themes present in this novel. • #thehelp #kathrynstockett #bookstagram #bookreview #phoenyxfyre2019 #yellowbooks #historicalfiction #booksaboutrace #booksaboutthesouth #booksthataremovies #2019reads #modernclassic #yellowandpurple #februarybooks #booksiown #hardcoverbooks #bookgirl #readallthebooks #bookaddict #booklove #readingisforcoolkids #readingallday #bookphoenix

A post shared by Amber // 29 // 🇺🇸 (@theliteraryphoenix) on

Latest from the Blog

What to read after you finish Mantel

Finished Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell Trilogy? We’ve put together a list of historical fiction books you may want to read next.

Read More

How to Start an Online Book Club

Now is a great time to launch that online book club you’ve always wanted, but how do you start? Follow these simple guidelines to be up and running in no time.

Read More

Female Writers under Pseudonym

One of the techniques employed by women during the 19th century was the use of a pen name or nom de plume, often using initials or masculine names, to help conceal their sex.

Read More

The Last Page – 10 Posthumous Releases

Ever wondered which books were published after the author’s death? Here are 10 posthumous releases that have since achieved attention.

Read More