Monday, May 30, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett...

This book is a breeze to read in one way. You are so engrossed, you can't put it down. Stockett has a talent for writing dialogue that is entirely engrossing. You can hear the soft, lilting accents in your head as you read them on the page. And, you love these maids. Who doesn't love a person who makes the best out of an awful situation, who acts with courage and friendship when the world seeks to tear them down?

But, the character of Skeeter has so many problems. She's two dimensional. She misses Constantine, her former maid and starts this writing project seemingly w/out any clue about the dangers to those involved. She gets involved with a guy.. almost engaged to one who has no idea about her political views and constantly lies to him when she knows that he's been seriously heart-broken by another honesty challenged woman. She doesn't seem the least bothered by any of that.

There were editing problems.. like Skeeters dry, brittle and frizzy (pubic more than cranial is the term she used) hair that she grows long and straight in the end... The entire character of Celia is fleshed out just to be dropped in the end.

Then, there is just this feeling that the story doesn't come close to telling what it was really like. I think of Billy Holiday singing Strange Fruit.

What this novel does really well is show what entitlement does to character. Those who profit from what they have not earned and services that they have not paid for suffer in kindness and compassion, have an over-inflated sense of self and a general lack of good will. It reminded me of this verse from Moses...

Moses 4:25

25 By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, until thou shalt return unto the ground—for thou shalt surely die—for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou wast, and unto dust shalt thou return.

To me, that's a commandment to contribute. Does that mean you can't hire a housekeeper, get your car detailed, your lawn mowed, your hair cut etc... ?? No. You just can't do those things while you keep the housekeepers, detailers and hair dressers out of the libraries and public schools while teaching your children that they are dirty and ignorant. You have to recognize honest labor, pay for it and honor it.

I once went to a restaurant with a good friend. Everything she ordered was sold out. The waiter was new and inexperienced, overly talky and less than polished. But, my friend refused to be unkind. After she ordered something for the 3rd time and found the item unavailable she said with a big smile, "Just surprise me!" She refused to be unkind. How do you treat the people who wait on your table or change your oil? My friend was once a waitress and so was I. It's good to know what it's like on that end. It changes your perspective forever.

The book shows that nothing is free for everything has an exacted cost, that even as we contribute as much as we can, we are still in debt and doing our best in helping each other is the only way to peace of mind and integrity.


Michelle said...

Tif, you are just so smart! I love the way you can analyze a book and find all the good and less than good bits and then describe it all so well. Thanks!

Jennifer said...

I, too, didn't like Skeeter all that much but not until you wrote it here did I realize yep, she was two dimensional. With everything else in the book so nicely crafted (well, minus dropping Celia's character, which also bothered me) could that be Stockett's intent? To have flat Skeeter as a foil to the vibrant, multi-faceted maids? They sure come off better than her. :)