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The Issues of Race, Gender, and Social Class in The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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Words: 1356 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Mar 18, 2021

Words: 1356|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Mar 18, 2021

There hasn’t been a time in our society where people haven't been treated differently because of the color of their skin or because of where they stand in society. In The Help, an effort is made to separate whites and blacks in every way possible which is very much how it was actually like in 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi. They have separate bathrooms, the two live on opposite sides of town, and many more things. The Help is a story about three ordinary women, Aibileen and Minny are two black maids, and white socialite Skeeter has just returned from college and aspires to be a writer. These women join together to work on a book about what its is like to be a black maid in Jackson, Mississippi. They are trying to tell their stories in a society that has long refused to hear their voices. Kathryn Stockett’s compelling and comically poignant tale conveys the impacting message that race, gender, and social class, despite our efforts to change this, will always affect how people are treated.

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In this time in history, racism is very common and sadly it is still around today. Many examples of it are displayed in various parts of the story. Towards the end of the novel, Skeeter finally discovers the truth about Constantine's sudden disappearance. “‘I pulled her into the kitchen and I said, Lulabelle, you can’t stay here. You need to go on, and oh she looked at me haughty. She said, What you don’t allow colored Negroes in your living room if we are not cleaning up? That’s when Constantine walks in the kitchen and she looks as shocked as I am. I say, Lulabelle, you get out of this house before I call Mister Phelan, but she won’t budge. Says, when I thought she was white, I treated her fine and dandy. Says in Chicago, she’s part of some under the ground group so I tell Constantine, I say, You get your daughter out of my house right now’”. This comes to show that there isn’t that much of a difference between whites and blacks because before finding out who she was, Charlotte thought Lulabelle was a white like all the other ladies there. The problem emerges as soon as she finds out she is Constantine's daughter and is black. Charlotte immediately changes her attitude towards Lulabelle and kicks her out of her house. Another situation in which racism is displayed is when Hilly suspected Aibileen was involved in the book that Skeeter wrote. It had some horrible stories about her so in order to get her revenge Hilly made Elizabeth fire Aibileen by making up a story that she stole some silver despite not having any evidence. “But she still won’t look at me and I don't know what to do. I don’t know, yet, how bad it is. Maybe this ain’t about the silver, maybe this is really about MIss Leefolt and Chapter Two … ‘Then it behooves me to inform you that you are fired, Aibileen.’ Miss Hilly sniff. ‘I’ll be calling the police. They know me.’” Even though she has no evidence, Hilly still had the power to fire Aibileen because Aibileen is black and couldn’t talk back to her. Despite racism being the main focus of this novel, it isn’t the only type of discrimination that it disscusses.

Being a female or male also determine how you were treated in this time. Women had certain expectations to uphold. When Skeeter tries to find a job at the local newspaper, the boss is male and prejudice. “‘I assume you know how to clean…’ He looks back to my articles, strikes them with violent red marks. My face flushes hot and quick. ‘Clean? I’m not here to clean. I’m here to write… I guess you’ll do. Miss Myrna’s gone shit-house crazy on us, drunk hair spray or something. Read the articles, write the answers like she does, nobody’ll know the damn difference.’... I nod, trying to figure out how to ask him what the job is without giving myself away”. The boss gives her the worst job there is and and most likely pays her less than the all the men who work there. On top of that, Skeeter has to act unlike herself to get the job. Skeeter lives in a time where the sexist Southern culture expects white women to marry, stay home, and marry as soon as possible, while white men are allowed the freedom to explore their passions in the workforce. “‘Four years my daughter goes off to college and what does she come home with?’ she asks. ‘A diploma?’ ‘A pretty piece of paper,’ Mother says. ‘ I told you. I didn’t meet anybody I wanted to marry.’ I say… I drop the issue. I’ll never be able to tell Mother I want to be a writer. She’ll only turn it into yet another thing that separates me from the married girls”. Skeeter is not the ideal woman. She has undesired traits for this time which leads to her having trouble finding a boyfriend. Both Hilly, Skeeter’s best friend, and Charlotte, Skeeter’s mother, force women’s ideals onto Skeeter. They embrace gender norms and try to enforce them on Skeeter by setting her up on dates or advising her on clothing choices. Along with gender, where you stand in the social hierarchy in this town determines how you are treated as well.

In this town, social status is extremely important. Hilly Holbrook is at the top of the social tier because she is wealthy and “well-bred”. She is idealized by the Jackson league, especially by Elizabeth because she wants to fit in. “Miss Leefolt look at Miss Hilly and suck in a breath, like she surprised. And I wonder whose idea this whole thing is, both of em or just MIss Hilly’s?” Despite doing nothing wrong, MIss Hilly accuses Aibileen of stealing and orders MIss Leefolt to fire her. Miss Leefolt, not wanting to be on Hilly’s bad side, complies and orders Aibileen out of the house. Celia Foote’s social standing is the exact opposite of Hilly’s and Elizabeth’s. She was born in Sugar Ditch which is as low as you can go in Mississippi, married rich, and wants to join the Jackson League. Hilly doesn’t like her because she married her ex boyfriend. “‘Not that bad, we don’t. I told her, ‘Celia, you have to be League member a sustainer to participate.’ What does she think the Jackson League is? Open rush?’ ‘Aren’t we taking nonmembers this year? Since the Benefit’s gotten so big?’ Miss Skeeter ask. ‘Well, yes,’ Miss Hilly say. ‘But I wasn’t about to tell her that.’ ‘I can’t believe Jonny married a girl so tacky like she is.’ Miss Leefolt say and MIss Hilly nod.” Since Celia comes from a poor, “white trash” family but marries into a wealthy one, she lacks knowledge of the largely unspoken rules of middle-class white conduct. She is looked down upon by the league and denied any chance to fit in. This novel demonstrates how class deeply affects people’s social interactions.

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At its core, The Help is an exploration of how race, gender, and social class will always have a great effect on people’s behavior towards each other, whether they show it or not. Racism affected every aspect of social life in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. The novel focuses on how white housewives justified the exploitation and emotional abuse of their black maids by convincing themselves that black people are fundamentally different from white people. Stockett also made a point to show the varying difficulties faced by women like when it was difficult for Skeeter to find a job as a writer and because she differed from the gender norms, she couldn’t find a boyfriend. The Help portrays class as providing the basis for Jackson’s tiered white society with Hilly Holbrook and Celia Foote showing opposing sides to this social hierarchy. Our society has made an effort to get rid of these types discrimination and has succeded in lessening them but despite our efforts they will most likely always linger somewhere in our world.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Issues Of Race, Gender, And Social Class In The Help By Kathryn Stockett. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 24, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-issues-of-race-gender-and-social-class-in-the-help-by-kathryn-stockett/
“The Issues Of Race, Gender, And Social Class In The Help By Kathryn Stockett.” GradesFixer, 18 Mar. 2021, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-issues-of-race-gender-and-social-class-in-the-help-by-kathryn-stockett/
The Issues Of Race, Gender, And Social Class In The Help By Kathryn Stockett. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-issues-of-race-gender-and-social-class-in-the-help-by-kathryn-stockett/> [Accessed 24 Jun. 2024].
The Issues Of Race, Gender, And Social Class In The Help By Kathryn Stockett [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Mar 18 [cited 2024 Jun 24]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-issues-of-race-gender-and-social-class-in-the-help-by-kathryn-stockett/
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