Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book #11 Review: The Help

I am leading a non-existent book club. "Huh?" You might be thinking. And rightly so. How can one lead something that doesn't exist? Well, you see...I took over a Mom's book club for a homeschool group this year only no one signed up to join me. So, I am reading through some book club books on my own. The Help by Kathryn Stockett was a book highly rated on so many book club lists that I included it in my own list this year.


But, to change things up a little bit, I think I will answer some "book club" discussion questions for you all instead of my typical review so that I feel as though I've actually been a part of a book club. If you've read the book, feel free to answer these questions in the comments section below. That way we can participate in our own mini book club right here on my blog.

1. Who was your favorite character? Why?

Tough question. Wow! I think I would have to say that Miss Skeeter is my favorite. I related to her the most and could see bits of myself in her. (critical mother, never really fitting in with anyone, that sort of thing) She inspired me to rise above what is expected of a person to become a better person. She bridged a huge gap by her bravery and gumption. I would only pray that I could do the same if I were in a similar situation.

2. What do you think motivated Hilly? On the one hand she is terribly cruel to Aibileen and her own help, as well as to Skeeter once she realizes that she can’t control her. Yet she’s a wonderful mother. Do you think that one can be a good mother but, at the same time, a deeply flawed person?

I think Hilly was an incredibly selfish person. She was motivated by only that which would make her more popular or give her more control over people. It is hard for me to judge whether a person can be a good mother while deeply flawed however. On the one hand, I do think that a person can have flaws and still love their children. I mean, come on...we are all flawed with sin. We all fall short of the glory of God.

On the other hand, however, I think a better question would be, do I think Hilly actually was a good mother? I happen to think not. She was so incredibly selfish and only wanted those around her who would raise her status. I can't help but feel that having children was just a tool for her to look better in her community, in the activities she was involved in. I think she appeared to love them for appearance sake.

3. Like Hilly, Skeeter’s mother is a prime example of someone deeply flawed yet somewhat sympathetic. She seems to care for Skeeter— and she also seems to have very real feelings for Constantine. Yet the ultimatum she gives to Constantine is untenable; and most of her interaction with Skeeter is critical. Do you think Skeeter’s mother is a sympathetic or unsympathetic character? Why?

I do not find Skeeter's mother sympathetic. I found her quite shallow. She, again, seemed so focused on appearances.

4. How much of a person’s character would you say is shaped by the times in which they live?

Before reading this book I would have said very little. But after reading this book and pondering the idea for a while I think perhaps more than I would wish. For example, when Hilly instructs Elizabeth to fire Aibileen, it is obvious to me that Elizabeth did so against her better judgement. She battled within herself and finally gave in to Hilly because it was expected of her. So, yes, I do believe her character was shaped because of the times she lived in.

I look with horror at such atrocities as described in this book but then I think, would I have done differently? Would I have been more like Skeeter or Elizabeth?

5. Did it bother you that Skeeter is willing to overlook so many of Stuart’s faults so that she can get married, and that it’s not until he literally gets up and walks away that the engagement falls apart?

Actually, a small part of me was bothered. While I wanted things to work out between Skeeter and Stuart, I was not happy that she could not be honest with him about a major happenstance in her life. If she had to hide something that big from him, then they should not be together.

6. Do you believe that Minny was justified in her distrust of white people?

Yes. I do believe it.

7. Do you think that had Aibileen stayed working for Miss Elizabeth, that Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother? Do you think racism is inherent, or taught?

I think it is most definitely taught. I think without Aibileen in her life, it will be much easier for her to grow up racist like her mother. But do I think Aibileen staying would have changed that? I am not sure. I think the struggle would have been much deeper for Mae Mobley to abstain from racism if Aibileen stayed in her life. She would stand a better chance of not being racist with that positive reinforcement.

8. From the perspective of a twenty-first century reader, the hairshellac system that Skeeter undergoes seems ludicrous. Yet women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of “beauty” changes with the times. Looking back on your past, what’s the most ridiculous beauty regimen you ever underwent?

Hmmm...I have not tried much in the world of beauty and fashion. I would say that dying my hair would be the most extreme treatment I've undergone. Unless you could piercing my ears which I did when I was 12.

9. The author manages to paint Aibileen with a quiet grace and an aura of wisdom about her. How do you think she does this?

First I think there is strength in prayer. Aibileen prayed each and every night. Aibileen also didn't react to situations. She kept her mouth shut and went about her business unaffected. There is strength in that. She listened carefully and made judgements after she had all the facts.

10. Do you think there are still vestiges of racism in relationships where people of color work for people who are white?

Yes, I think there is. I don't think it is necessarily strictly African American either. I think it can be any race.

11. What did you think about Minny’s pie for Miss Hilly? Would you have gone as far as Minny did for revenge?

No. Never. I may think about doing something awful, but I could never bring myself to actually do anything about it.

So, have you read the book? What are your thoughts?

(these questions I found at LitLovers.


Sherri said...

wow I never read the book but I did buy it and I did see the movies You have inspired me to read the book Thanks let me know what you will read next and I just might join you. Blessings, Sherri

Anna said...

I am halfway done with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes at the moment. Next I will be reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I would love to have you join me. That is another one of my "non-existent book club" books.