The Help: Chapter 1

Hi, everyone:

So what are your initial impressions of The Help? It is taking everything in me to not jump ahead in this book. I am definitely engaged so far. At first it took a few minutes to grasp the language, since it is written in a very southern vernacular, but I actually appreciate the language. I feel as though it immediately transports me back to that time period, the early 1960s. At times as I read it feels as though I’m sitting at the dining room table, watching the scene unfold.

In Chapter 1 we are introduced to Aibileen, a black maid who works for the Leefolt family. Within the first 11 pages of the book, a mound of deep-seated racial and ethical issues are brought up, and while we are only seeing a one-sided perspective right now, I am really curious to see where this all leads.

While I understand that this is a work of fiction, I was somewhat surprised to see the perception that the white characters in the book have of black women. Maybe I was just a bit off in my historical time frame, because while I knew that the 1960s saw the height of the civil rights movement, ideas that blacks carried diseases that could be passed to whites if they used the same bathroom was absolutely shocking to me. I thought that these ideas had died down by this time.

We meet Aibileen after the death of her son, Treelore, and it is apparent that after many years of working for white families in Mississippi, she has begun to see things a bit differently. Many of the obvious insults and views of her and her fellow maid friends, which were simply swallowed for years, aren’t going down as easily these days. Perhaps the circumstances surrounding her son’s death (which so far we only know the basics of) have something to do with it. Or maybe Aibileen is now questioning within herself what she has to live and work so hard for without a child or husband. How Aibileen responds to the pit that is building up inside of her will hopefully become clear in the coming chapters. Aibileen’s sentiments made me think about my own life and situations that may have caused me to view the world differently. Has there been a situation in your life that caused you to do the same?

For next week, let’s read through Chapter 6.

—Nykia Spradley