The Help

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Themes and Colors
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Social Class  Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Help, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

At its core, The Help is an exploration of the ways in which racism pervaded every aspect of social life in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi – from Jim Crow laws that sanctioned discrimination and segregation as official policy to casual conversations between middle-class white women. In particular, 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 – and…

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Focused as it is on female characters—white and black—The Help portrays how the home, a traditionally feminine space, was just as much a battleground for social change as were the courtrooms and rallies of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. While Aibileen describes how white men beat or kill black men who “stepped out of line,” the novel also shows how white women used their social influence to ruin the lives of the black maids…

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The Help offers an in-depth meditation on the complicated effects that class has on people’s social interactions, specifically with regards to race. The Help portrays class as providing the basis for Jackson’s tiered white society: the wealthy and “well-bred” are at the top, setting the social conventions and attitudes for everyone else below. Elizabeth Leefolt and Celia Foote exemplify opposing ways of how a white Southern woman can navigate social class. Elizabeth comes from a…

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“Help” normally signifies the giving of free services or resources to those in need, but the novel’s title refers directly to the underpaid black domestic workers who, paradoxically, are the ones “helping” their wealthier and more powerful employers, people who have no real need of help. By referring to these women as “the help,” the white housewives uphold the illusion that the maids are like volunteers who want—or should be grateful for the opportunity—to…

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The theme of writing is threaded throughout The Help, as the novel melds fact and fiction to showcase the power of storytelling. In an act of defiance against the gender norms of her time, Miss Skeeter seeks self-determination through the act of writing. As a white woman in her society, she would have been expected to maintain the social order, to not “stir up trouble.” Skeeter’s book allows her to pit herself against not only…

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