Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Help: Part Two, Chps 10-19

For reals this time.

Things are developing but not in entirely satisfying ways.

For one thing, Skeeter is a little hard to read. Does she know what she's getting into or not? And just when you think her eyes are opening to the realities of the situation it turns out she can't stop thinking about her book, which, let's not forget, is a project that originates in Skeeter's desire for a writing career and not in much of a civil rights concern.

Aibileen lets her head hang. I'm sure it's out of grief for Yule May, but I suspect she also knows the book is over.
I don't get the feeling that the book is a social justice project for Skeeter, really, even after she's been working on it for a while now and learning more about the situation. Do you? I think it's still about Skeeter's career, and I'm not convinced that she gets what it means or might mean to the maids.

Yule May being thrown in prison came awfully suddenly, didn't it? And wasn't it nice of her to write down her whole life story and motivation for Skeeter/us? And then all of a sudden everyone wants to help Skeeter -- and by everyone I mean a convenient thirteen maids. Convenient because Skeeter needs twelve and one of the thirteen turns out to just want to acknowledge some of the uncomfortable power dynamics in this book. I felt like all of this could have been much better handled so that it actually felt like a turning point instead of Insert Turning Point Here. I get that the Yule May thing was supposed to have happened suddenly, it just felt clumsy in the text.

Skeeter's life among the white folks isn't all that much better. When she left her bag behind -- her bag that she was carrying with her everywhere so that no one would see its sensitive contents -- at the League meeting or whatever that was, I was just all: G.T.F.O.

My thoughts exactly, stick man.

And maybe I'm just not paying sufficient attention (that's kind of my M.O. these days) but Skeeter's cautiousness feels really uneven. If anything she relaxes after the bag incident. Even though she's supposed to be a college graduate who wants to support herself with a writing career and who orders banned novels from an illicit press in California -- she just doesn't feel that smart or savvy, I guess. Especially that last bit. Does someone who deliberately seeks out banned books also feel hesitant to think of Hilly as anything but a friend?

I admit that I'm curious to find out whether her Sexy Boyfriend™ is going to turn out to be a secret supporter of Civil Rights. Scenario 1: he's a bigot, dumps Skeeter, and she takes off as a confident professional writer to New York. Scenario 2: he's sympathetic and/or won over by Skeeter's work and everyone lives happily ever after.

I'm glad we have Miss Celia's deal out in the open now (well, for us readers) (although that miscarriage business was harrowing). For some reason I thought it was a little underwhelming still; I guess I was hoping there was going to be something surprising there and there wasn't really. Oh well.

Overall, the book is holding my interest pretty well, but as I'm seeing the plot develop I'm not all that impressed. Entertained, maybe, but not impressed.


  1. Ok, I GUESS I agree with pretty much everything you say here. I've been overall ignoring Skeeter in favor of pretty much every other character, though, so she hasn't bothered me too much. Even when she's narrating, I tend to forget she is and assume it's Aibileen or something. Which has led to some confusion.

    I dunno, we can't expect Stockett to work TOO hard here, right? It's not like she was trying to write a challenging book or anything (ooh Stockett burn).

  2. Hmmm...your last comment kinda raises the question of authorial intent. I don't the book was supposed to be impressive. An engrossing read, sure. But if it was supposed to be a hard-hitting book about race, then it would be a very different book, indeed. And not a chick-lit yellow-covered book.

    I cut Skeeter more slack than you do, but I was also extremely frustrated with her vascillating viewpoint on how dangerous this book participation was for the maids. Sometimes she seemed to get it, other times she seemed far more wrapped up in her own concerns for Her Book that she overlooked the dangerous stakes the other women had.

    She's also young and has never known a different world. Because when you're young, you trust your mama about things. Your mama tells you not to touch the stove 'cause it's hot. And your mama tells you about right and wrong. And when your mama tells you certain things about certain races, it takes a lot of growing up and a separation from your own identity to be able to recognize that the truisms you were raised on aren't truisms at all. Skeeter just hasn't gotten all the way there yet, but she's growing in that direction.

  3. Thank you! Skeeter is totally inconsistent and doesn't at all care about civil rights and still wants to be friends with her awful friends and it's just. pissing. me. off.
    Also, with the sexy boyfriend, I kind of feel like he's a big racist and his ex ran off with the stable boy or something and that's why he hates her now, BUT I could be wrong. But he is all up in Mississippi politics so I'm kind of inclined to think he is.

    Also, @Alice's comment- ouch! But also, lol.

  4. Ooooooh Laura, if that turns out to be true, I will high five you. ALSO, it would be really interesting, so if she doesn't do it that way, I will be slightly disappointed in her. 'Cause he'd be all "Well YOU'D never run off with a colored boy' and then Skeeter'd be like "Ahhhhhh!" and then there would be sadness, but she would *grow.*