Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Help, Chapters 20-28

I'm desperately trying to not make this post 'reasons I hate Skeeter', but it's really really difficult for me not to dislike her, even though, you know, her mum's dying and she just kind of got broken up with twice just in this one section, and she has no friends now. But still... She bugs me! But more on that later.

Firstly, I want to point out that, whilst Stockett clearly has some affinity for the black women in this book (because, you know, Minny is AWESOME, and Aibileen in wonderful), can we just look at the black men for a minute? Or, I should say, where are the black men? Aibileen's husband ran off a really long time ago, Leroy beats Minny (HOW DARE HE?!), and the rest of the black men? Basically seem to have been lynched or beaten by the white folk. So basically, black men are either helpless victims, or useless runner-offers, or violent wife-beaters. Do I really need to tell you how, really, kind of offensive I find this? I mean, would it kill Stockett to give, say, Aibileen a nice supportive husband, or even just one of the maids a husband who is supportive enough to go along with her to talk to Skeeter? Is that too much to ask? I guess, though, all the good men are getting lynched and so can't be there with their wives. Or something. Grrrr.

Anyway, many many secrets were revealed in these chapters. Namely: What Minny did with the pie (and it was what I expected, and it was gross. But I love that Hilly's mum found it hilarious! Even if she was punished by being sent off to a nursing home...) and what happened with Stuart's fiancee (she slept with another man. Which is bad. BUT he was an integrationist and she's all into that movement now, and I find it kind of difficult to dislike her because of that. In fact, why isn't Skeeter doing that?) and what happened with Constantine (she put her child up for adoption and then refound her, and then her rebellious kid spit in Skeeter's mum's face because she refused to treat her like a human being... which seemed pretty fair to me. But Constantine is DEAD?! MEGA sadface). Secrets, secrets, secrets, and with most of them, I was on the side of the characters we don't really know, which feels about right because I hates all the white people. Seriously.

AND Stockett's been doing that thing again where she beats us over the head with what she means. Take this exchange between Hilly and Skeeter:
" 'Hilly... Just who is all that pound cake money being raised for anyway?'
She rolls her eyes. 'The Poor Starving Children of Africa?'
I wait for her to catch the irony of this, that she'll send money to colored people overseas, but not across town."
BASHES HEAD AGAINST THE TABLE. Because, obviously, what Stockett is really saying is 'Here is irony! I have written it so PAY ATTENTION TO IT!' And she does it all. the. time. Which is extra annoying because she can do things without pointing out that she's done them, and it's so much better when she does and it doesn't make me want to injure myself. Like this, between Hilly and Elizabeth:
" 'She needs to learn that she can't carry on this way. I mean, around us it's one thing, but around some other people, she's going to get in big trouble.'
'It's true. There are some racists in this town,' Miss Leefolt say.
Miss Hilly nod her head, 'Oh, they're out there.'"
See! See how much better it is! STOP EXPLAINING STUFF!

Speaking of Elizabeth, she's had her second baby, and yet I'm not sure we even know it's gender. I mean, I don't care that much because Mae Mobley needs that teeny bit of attention Elizabeth deigned to give her before and definitely won't now, but still. Stockett could have mentioned it, non?

And then there's Skeeter. And, in spite of all her hardships, and even the toilet stunt in Hilly's garden (which, let's face it, was hilarious, although, lo and behold, she put the lives of two black guys in danger without really thinking about it at all because it doesn't affect her and she's really pretty selfish) really hasn't made me like her any more. Or at least not much more. Which I think I just expressed effectively in the brackets right there. Here's the problem, as I see it. She's too fucking passive! She just sits there, while people say things that she finds abhorrent, and just lets them say them, without objection. Like, for example her mother, who tells her that "'It's time you learned, Eugenia, how things really are... They are not like regular people.'" and instead of objecting to that, telling her mother that she's a racist dick, she just sits there, is a bit sad, and generally feels in no way different towards her mother.

But then, her mother is ill, so that's maybe not a fair example. Take, then, her little engagement conversation with Stuart, who, after she tells him about her book, is sort of bewildered (you can almost hear him thinking, 'Oh GOD, not another one') and says to her "Why do you even... care about this, Skeeter?... What I mean is, things are fine around here. Why would you want to go stirring up trouble?'" And instead of really blowing up at him, telling him that he's blind and stupid if he thinks that things are fine in Jackson, Mississippi in the early sixties, and how messed up he is if he thinks it's fine to treat people as second class citizens because of the colour of his skin, and that of course he thinks things are fine because he isn't being treated like he isn't as good as anyone else. But no, she just accepts his point of view, still desperate to marry him, and lets him walk out on her. God, I hate these people.

And, (this is my last moan about Skeeter, I promise) there's that one bit where, she has no friends, and hasn't got back with Stuart yet, and she's driving around Jackson and says (to herself, smoooth Skeeter...) "'I wish I could leave here.'" And I literally screamed, in my brain, YOU CAN! I mean, for Gods sake, stop being such a victim, woman! She literally has so many options open to her, and yet she has grounded herself in a miserable situation in Mississippi for no clear reason. And if you look at her circumstances at her age, and compare them to the options Minny, or Aibileen would have had, you have to just want to slap her for being such a victim, when really, the whole entire world is open to her in a way it has never been to these women. Skeeter sucks.

One last thing (and I realise this has been so very long, I just had a lot of SHOUTY OPINIONS about this part, ok?) is that it makes me sad that this is a sentence in this book: "God, I am the town's Boo Radley, just like in To Kill A Mockingbird." Oh REALLY, Kathryn?! Is that which book Boo Radley is from? Because I wouldn't have known that, because it's not like everyone knows that, even if they haven't read To Kill A Mockingbird, and sweet Jesus, why are you so ANNOYING? The End (until next week... Ugh.)


  1. Hahaha ok so I still kinda like Skeeter but this post is making me rethink why. Especially by the end when I'm like "Dammit, Skeeter could just leave! If she's so miserable, she can go." I mean, she needs to finish the book first so she doesn't just go "Oh hey maids, thanks for the stories but I'm bored with that now!" But yes, her whining about how hard life is for her is difficult to handle next to Aibileen and Minny. And to be honest, with better writing and maybe a little more insight into the characters (and less time explaining instances of irony), she could probably have the characters' actions stay the same but there'd be a better understanding as to the why.

    Sorry that comment was long. And my apology is making the comment even longer. Whoops.

  2. Dude, long comments are the bestest! And yeah, I think Skeeter does need to hang around especially to wait until her book is published and to make sure no one gets hurt (not outside the realms of possibility!) but other than that, it's like Dude. Just go. There's a whole world out there beyond state borders, and it's open to you as a rich white woman. Damn. Although, I do get that she wants to look after her mother, so that's cool and everything, but after she dies (which is surely about to happen..? No, wait, don't tell me hehe) there's literally nothing keeping her in Mississippi. And YES, if Stockett cared to explain her characters motivations better, that would so be good, and my blood pressure would be at a healthier level!

    Well look at my long comment too! Hehe.


    Omg I just want her cut out of the book. Just make it all Minny's POV, with Aibileen guest-starring sometimes.

    That's a good point about the black men. What's up, Stockett? There ARE some nice ones out there. A lot of them. And they won't undermine your narrative at all.

    Sooo much not-so-great writing. I mean, it's not amazingly terrible, but it's just not so great.

  4. YES to making Minny the star! Aibileen and Minny could have written the damn book themselves anyway, and Skeeter could just GO AWAY. It's definitely not the worst writing ever, but then, it's far from the best. I guess it's floating in the middle somewhere with the crappy-ish writers. But I fear that having sold 2 million US copies (or whatever ridiculous number it was) is only going to encourage her to write more stuff and make more ANNOYING characters. Damn.

  5. I can't believe you guys suspected that with the pie. AT WORST I would have guessed a laxative in the pie...

    The proposal scene was bizarre to me. I hadn't got the feeling that Skeeter was back to liking Stuart well enough to really consider marrying him. So the idea that she would spill her guts to him was jarring. Plus, here's a woman who can't bring herself to tell her mom she broke up for, what, months, so for her to take the initiative and crate conflict by Telling All seemed really, really strange.

    It seems like there has been a little bit of awareness of yankee "agitators" or freedom summer types around the periphery, so it does seem odd that Skeeter doesn't see any connection between herself and them. It would be interesting even if she didn't like them and tried to justify seeing herself as separate.

  6. Yeah, but Minny kept saying "It was a *chocolate* pie", and from there I feel like I went down the natural route! Although, to be honest, a laxative in the pie would be funnier and less vomit-inducing. And YES the proposal was annoying, because instead of actually thinking "well, I don't really like him, actually" she was all "oh, I must tell him these things because my husband must know all things about me"- it's like turning him down wasn't even an option!
    And yeah, even if Skeeter was like "well, I don't agree with the northerners in general because of this..." it would be better than her just kind of pretending all that stuff isn't happening so she doesn't have to take a proper stance on it and can just skip around writing her book and going "oh I'm so miserable, poor me!"

    ARGH, I'm so glad we're nearly done with this book!