Monday, January 6, 2014

The Help: A Book Review and Move Comparison

Well I don't know about everyone else but I am VERY glad that the holidays are over. As I mentioned in my October post that I took on two part time holiday positions at two retail stores and as a result I have been working almost non-stop throughout this holiday season. I will be going full time at one of the locations and I am actually really excited about it! In the past I didn't ever picture myself being satisfied and happy working retail. I have worked elsewhere in the past and wasn't seeing it as a permanent, long term job. I was surprised to find though, that I really enjoy the work and the people I work with! Needless to say, I am so happy about the full time position and that the holiday season is over so I can have a more balanced work/home life! 

I finished reading The Help recently and it was just as wonderful as the movie! I have seen the movie many times before reading the book and sometimes the books are a real let down, or vice versa but in this instance the book and movie were on par with one another. Both kept the essence of the story true to each other and are equally fantastic! 

There are a couple things that I really liked that the movie didn't convey as well was Skeeter's struggle as she was writing the stories down. She lost all of her friends and was shunned from the community. I didn't notice it before but, later in the movie when Miss Celia Foot takes the pie over to Elizabeth's on bridge party day, Skeeter is not there. The movie being more fast paced didn't have the time to show this struggle as well. 

The second thing is that the movie glosses over some of the more violent aspects of how desperate the times were for the blacks living in Jackson. Some of the stories that the ladies told helped but one part of the book tells about the young man that mows Aibileen's lawn get's beaten for accidentally using the white's bathroom at a hardware store and as a result has a broken leg and is blinded as a result. I think that if the producers had added in perhaps one or two more of these events that we, the viewer's, would have a fuller, truer view of the situations all three main characters were faced with in respect to the time period in which the story is set.  One part where they did give some indication as to the depths of the culture was the line by Aibileen, 
"They set my cousin Chynell's car on fire just for going down to the votin' station. "
Skeeter responds, "A book like this has never been written before."
"'Cause there a reason, I do this with you I might as well burn my own house down."

Another cool thing that would have been nice to include in the movie, although it wasn't essential to the story- hence they cut it out, was Aibileen asking Skeeter to get her books from the white library that she was on the long waiting list for or didn't have access to.
   'Aibileen gives me a dry cough. "You know colored folks ain't allowed in that library."
    I sit there for a second, feeling stupid. "I can't believe I forgot that." The colored library must be pretty bad. There was a sit-in at the white library a few years ago and it made the papers. When the colored crowd showed up for the sit-in trial, the police department simply stepped back and turned the German shepherds loose. I look at Aibileen and am reminded, once again, the risk she's taking talking to me. "I'll be glad to pick the books up for you," I say. 
    Aibileen hurries to the bedroom and comes back with a list. "I better mark the ones I want first. I been on the waiting list for To Kill a Mockingbird at the carver Library near bout three months now. Less see..."
    On her twelfth title, I have to know. "Aibileen, how long have you been wanting to ask me this? If I'd check these books out for you?"
   "A while." She shrugs. "I guess I's afraid to mention it."
    "Did you...think I'd say no?"
    "These is white rules. I don't know which one's you following and which one's you ain't."
    "We look at each other a second. "I'm tired of the rules," I say.
    Aibileen chuckles and looks out the window. I realize how thin this revelation must sound to her.'
pg. 179-180

Another thing that wasn't shown too well was the wrath that Hilly and any other white woman with means could unfold if she really wanted to. Aibileen described it as a shiny little set a tools.
    'After while, my mind done drifted to where I wish it wouldn't. I reckon I know pretty well what would happen if the white ladies found out we was writing about them, telling the truth a what they really like. Womens they ain't like men. A woman ain't gone beat you with a stick. Miss Hilly wouldn't pull no pistol on me. Miss Leefolt wouldn't come burn my house down.
    No, white womens like to keep they hands clean. They got a shiny little set a tools they use, sharp as witches' fingernails, tidy and laid out neat, like the picks on a dentist tray. They gone take they time with em.
    First thing a white lady gone do is fire you. You upset, but you figure you'll find another job, when things settle down, when the white lady get around to forgetting. You got a month a rent saved. people bring you squash casseroles. 
    But then a week after you lost your job, you get this little yellow envelope stuck in your screen door. Paper inside say Notice Of Eviction. Ever land lord in Jackson be white and ever one got a white wife that's friends with somebody. You start to panic some then. You still ain't got no job prospects. Everwhere you try, the door slams i your face. And now you ain't got a place to live.
    Then it starts to come a little faster.
    If you got a note on your car, they gone repossess it.
    If you got a parking ticket you ain't paid, you going to jail.
    If you got a daughter, maybe you go live with her. She tend to a white family a her own. But in a few days later she come home, say, "Mama" I just got fired." She look hurt, scared. She done understand why. You got to tell her it's cause a you.
Least her husband still working. Least they can feed the baby.
    Then they fire her husband. Just another little sharp tool, shiny and fine.
    They both pointing at you, crying, wondering why you done it. You can't even remember why. Weeks pass and nothing, no jobs, no money, no house. you hope this is the end of it, that she done enough, she ready to forget.
    It'll be a knock on the door, late at night. It won't be the white lady at the door, She don't do that kind a thing herself. But while the nightmare's happening, the burning or the cutting or the beating, you realize something you known all your life: the white lady don't ever forget.
    And she ain't gone stop till you dead.

The book shows Aibileen's determination that Baby Girl not grow to hate the coloreds the way her mamma and Miss Hilly do. She takes to telling her stories about how there are two little girls who are different colors but both the same- they're people. She even makes up a story about Martin Luther being different and no one liking him because he's green. The following passage shows her thinking clearly.
     'But Miss Hilly shaking her head. "Aibileen, you wouldn't want to go to a school full of white people, would you?"
    "No ma'am," I mumble. I get up and pull the ponytail holder out a Baby Girl's head. Them green plastic balls get all tangly when her hair get wet. But what I really want to do is put my hands up over her ears so she can't hear this talk. And worse, hear me agreeing.
    But then I think: Why? Why I have to stand here and agree with her? And if Mae Mobley gone hear it, she gone hear some sense. I get my breath. My heart beating hard. And I say polite as I can, "Not a school full a just white people. But where the colored and the white folks is together."
    Hilly and Miss Leefolt both look at me. I look back down at the kids.
    "But Aibileen"--Miss Hilly smile real cold-- "colored people and white people are just so...different." She wrinkle up her nose.
    I feel my lip curling. A course we different! Everbody know colored people and white people ain't the same. But we still just people! Shoot, I even been hearing Jesus had colored skin living out there in the desert. I press my lips together.

At the end of the book, Miss Skeeter recommended Aibileen for the Miss Merna column and so after she lost her job with Miss Elizabeth she was started on a  new path. I love the book and the movie both as they are a wonderful tale of how we are all just people and how the principle of- Treat Others How You Want to be Treated- has so much impact. People affect one another- good and bad and we should all focus on being kinder to others- especially on our bad days. Taking the focus out of oneself and placing it on others is most often a healing balm. So go out of your way to be a blessing to someone else- it can be as easy as offering a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or getting your elderly neighbor's mail.