THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett (hier online bestellen)

The story:
If you deal with the US Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, this book would give you some insight into what life was like for blacks in the American South. The setting of the novel is Jackson, Miss, at the beginning of the 60s, one of the US states where people lived by the slogan 'separate but equal'. In fact, black domestic helps were not treated as equal by whites. On the contrary, they were considered second-class people who could be happy to serve white upper class families for as little wages as they needed to survive.
The novel not only reflects the miserable life of black Americans at that time, but also allows us to look behind the curtain of arrogance and prejudice by which esp. white women treated their black helps. The only white woman in the novel who sympathizes with blacks is Eugenia Phelan, also called Miss Skeeter. She has enjoyed a college education and is about to enter journalism and writing. This is the reason why she comes up with the idea to write a book on how black domestic helps think and feel of their white woman masters. Skeeter as well as the domestic helps write this book containing interviews with c. 10 black domestic helps. They all do this secretly and anonymously, because it would be dangerous for them if they revealed their identity. Miss Skeeter is avoided by most of her former friends anyway, as she is outspoken and a columnist for a local paper (also see excerpt below). This alone makes her suspicious. In that time of racism and violence they all have to fear for their lives (KluKluxKlan etc.).
This novel is not only interesting by what Skeeter hears from her black friends, but also by the way the novel is written: it would not be difficult to find suitable passages of how different points of view are applied, of autobiographical traits, od different registers (e.g. language of blacks), of wit and humour or of an omniscient narrator who enters the minds of other characters.

Excerpt I (from Skeeter's point of view):
[Skeeter suffering from loneliness which is mainly dure to the fact that white people turn away from her believing she takes up the blacks' cause.]

I STARE AT THE PHONE in the kitchen. No one's called here in so long, it's like a dead thing mounted to the wall. There's a terrible quiet looming everywhere—at the library, at the drugstore where I pick up Mother's medicine, on High Street where I buy typewriter ink, in our own house. President Kennedy's assassination, less than two weeks ago, has struck the world dumb. It's like no one wants to be the first to break the silence. Nothing seems important enough.

On the rare occasion that the phone does ring lately, it's Doctor Neal, calling with more bad test results, or a relative checking on Mother. And yet, I still think Stuart sometimes, even though it's been five months since he's called. Even though I finally broke down and told Mother we'd broken up. Mother looked shocked, as I suspected she would, but thankfully, just sighed.

I take a deep breath, dial zero, and close myself up in the pantry. I tell the local operator the long distance number and wait.

"Harper and Row, Publishers, how may I connect you?"
"Elaine Stein's office, please."

I wait for her secretary to come on the line, wishing I'd done this earlier. But it felt wrong to call the week of Kennedy's death and I heard on the news most offices were dosed. Then it was Thanksgiving week and when I called, the switchboard told me no one was answering in her office at all...... (pp. 342/43)

Excerpt II:
[Abileen, Minny and Skeeter talking about their common project (book)]
[Note Aibileen's language - Can you rewrite this passage using standard English?]
[Minny married to a violent alcoholic]

I BEEN IN SOME tense situations, but to have Minny on one side a my living room and Miss Skeeter on the other, and the topic at hand be what it feel like being Negro and working for a white woman. Law, it's a wonder they hadn't been a injury.

We had some close calls though.
Like last week, when Miss Skeeter showed me Miss Hilly's reasons why colored folk need they own bathroom. "Feel like I'm looking at something from the KKK," I said to Miss Skeeter. We was in my living room and the nights had started to get warm. Minny'd gone in the kitchen to stand in front a the icebox. Minny don't stop sweating but for five minutes in January and maybe not even then.

"Hilly wants me to print it in the League newsletter," Miss Skeeter said, shaking her head disgusted. "I'm sorry, I probably shouldn't have shown it to you. But there's no one else I can tell."

A minute later, Minny come back from the kitchen. I gave Miss Skeeter a look, so she slid the list under her notebook. Minny didn't look much cooler. Fact, she looked hotter than ever.

"Minny, do you and Leroy ever talk about civil rights?" Miss Skeeter ask. "When he comes home from work?"

Minny had that big bruise on her varm that's what Leroy (i.e her husband) do when he come home from work. He push her around. (pp. 182/83)

Excerpt III:
[Skeeter being a journalist for the 'Jackson Journal', has written an article on Miss Hilly (a very conservative white woman) and her opinion that black domestic helps should use separate toilets from the ones white use. By publishing this in the paper, Skeeter provokes and ridicules Mrs Hilly]

We walk up Devine, turn left, then left again, and up Miss Hilly's street, which is Myrtle. Even though it's August, it's a nice walk, ain't too hot yet. Birds is zipping around, singing. Mae Mobley (3-year-old daughter of the Leefolts who Aibileen works for) holding my hand and we swinging our arms having a good ole time. Lots a cars passing us today, which is strange, cause Myrtle a dead end. We turn the bend to Miss Hilly's great big white house. And there they is. Mae Mobley point and laugh. "Look. Look, Aibee!" I have never in my life seen a thing like this. Three dozen of em. Pots. Right smack on Miss Hilly's lawn. All different colors and shapes and sizes. Some is blue, some is pink, some is white. Some ain't got no ring, some ain't got no tank. They's old ones, young ones, chain on top, and flush with the handle. Almost look like a crowd a people the way some got they lids open talking, some with they lids closed listening. We move,over into the drain ditch, cause the traffic on this little street's starting to build up. People is driving down, circling round the little island a grass at the end with they windows down. Laughing out loud saying, "Look at Hilly's house," "Look at those things." Staring at them toilets like they never seen one before. "One, two, three," Mae Mobley start counting em. She get to twelve and I got to take over. "Twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one. Thirty-two commodes, Baby Girl." (p. 287)

About the author:
Kathryn Stockett was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and Creative Writing, she moved to New York City where she worked in magazine publishing and marketing for nine years. She currently lives in Atlanta with her husband and daughter. The Help is her first novel.

Taschenbuch: 464 Seiten Verlag: Penguin Books Frankfurt (4. Mai 2010) Sprache: Englisch
ISBN: 0141047704
Preis: € 7,50

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