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Old 05-05-2010, 07:22 PM   #136
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In life, we meet many people. Sometimes you think you know a person only to find out that they are actually much different than you'd ever expect. Miss Celia, surprisingly enough, has become one of them. We've read pages upon pages describing her as this weak, pitiful thing of a woman, only to find out there's so much more to her past. On page 309, we actually see Miss Celia take things into her own hands when defending Minny from the drunkard who threatens their safety.

Minny also surprised me. Beneath that strong, heavy persona, we see her vulnerable side:

"[People] don't know what a pathetic mess I turn into when Leroy's beating on me. I'm afraid to hit back. I'm afraid he'll leave me if I do. I know it makes no sense and I get so mad at myself for being so weak! How can I love a man who beats me raw? Why do I love a fool drinker?" (413)

This particular passage really hit home for me. Although I've never been in a physically abusive relationship, I have found myself asking similar questions as Minny did. Similarly, time and time again we hear a story of a girl (or woman) staying with a man who treats her poorly. But why? Why do women (and men) crave the love and attention from people who hurt them --- either physically or emotionally? Does this mean that they are weak? Do you think it affects how they present themselves to the world? In Minny's case, she had a very strong personality outside of Leroy's wrath. Did her suffering at home change how she acted in the neighborhood?
Nikki, you always ask such great questions.
As a mental health therapist, I work with (mostly) women in abusive relationships all the time. There are so many factors that contribute to someone getting and staying involved in an abusive relationship. There isn't really one definitive reason but a combination of factors like lack of self esteem, traumatic childhood experiences, even cultural expectations. I have found that certain cultures find it more acceptable for men to have a mistress, for instance. Once women are in the relationship, it is so hard for them to leave for a lot of reasons, especially if there are children.

I so loved this book for the honest portrayal of women. There were no super-women here...just flawed human beings trying their best to get by and survive, including the less sympathetic characters. Most of us think peer pressure ends in high school but this is a perfect example of how even adults are caught up in the pressure to fit in and be acceptable.
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Old 05-05-2010, 08:27 PM   #137
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I just found this thread this morning! I wish I'd seen it earlier, because I just finished reading The Help a few weeks ago. Sadly, I passed my copy along to a friend yesterday, so I can't go back page-by-page and will just have to rely on my poor memory (LOL). I'd love to join in the discussion, though. (And will try to look at the questions this evening when I have a little more time and can read completely through the thread first.)

I would like to say that, as a person living in the South, it brought up a lot of memories for me. My paternal grandmother used to have a maid. When her 4 boys were young, the maid (Minnie Lee) more or less raised them (late 40s - 50s, for sure). I've seen pictures of the family at the beach or of one son's birthday party, and she's in a good deal of the pictures.)

When I was a child (80s and 90s), Minnie Lee still came over once a week or so--sometimes less often. She was typically there more during the summer and would shell peas and beans or can tomatoes or peaches. And she cooked the absolute best fried chicken, too.

I don't remember her ever sitting at the table to eat with us, even though the dining table is in the kitchen. She always took a bar stool and ate at the counter by the stove. It never struck me as "improper" to hug her -- and it doesn't seem like anyone ever said anything about it. To me, she was like a close family friend or even a member of the family.

The Help made me think about her (she's been gone around 10 years now) and made me think about how she "fit" into our family. I realized some of the roles that I'd never thought of or realized before. Of course, it wasn't exactly like it was in the book...but I don't know the entire story of how things were for her, either.
It must have been interesting reading the novel and thinking back to your experiences with Minnie Lee. I bet it really brought the story to life for you!
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Old 05-05-2010, 08:39 PM   #138
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Well, the time has come. By now, everyone should have finished The Help! I am sad to have reached the end. I miss Aibileen, Minny, Skeeter, and the other characters. Now, though, we can really look at the text as a whole.

I have oh so many questions and topics to bring up, but I want you all to share your own as well. Let's start simply. What was your overall impression of The Help? If you could rate the text on a 10-point scale, what would you give it and why?

Let's also think about our beloved characters. I'm partial to Aibileen; this is perhaps because she opened and closed the novel for us. One of the on-going questions in her mind is what Mae Mobley would be like in the future. Do you think that Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother if Aibileen had stayed working for Miss Elizabeth? Based on this, would you say that racism is taught behavior or inherrent? Why?
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Old 05-05-2010, 10:12 PM   #139
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Do you think that Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother if Aibileen had stayed working for Miss Elizabeth? Based on this, would you say that racism is taught behavior or inherrent? Why?
Nikki -

Thanks for bringing up this topic, because I felt it was a strong theme in the book that racism is a learned behavior.

All you have to do is look at kids (whether in this story or in your own life) to realize this. Mae Mobley loved Aibileen because she cared for her and showed an interest in her, regardless of her color of skin. As Mae Mobley grew up she would certainly learn that people are treated differently based on the color of their skin. Both her mother and father are obviously racist, so would she follow in their beliefs? I think a big part of that answer would be in what type of other influences she would be exposed to. Since racism is learned and that's what she's taught, she would need someone to challenge her beliefs.

I have 8-year-old twins who attend a public school in our suburban neighborhood where the population is about 50% white, with the rest of the population a mixture of races. I think it's unrealistic when we expect our kids to be "color-blind". It's unrealistic to NOT talk about the differences between their friends. They have friends with different color skin then them, friends who don't eat meat and friends who take days off of school to observe religious holidays. If I blow off their questions about these differences I'm doing my kids and the other kids an injustice. What's important to TEACH is that just because someone is different doesn't make you or them better. That's the lesson Mae Mobley isn't being taught. She's being taught people are different and therefore somehow less valuable.
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Old 05-06-2010, 04:52 PM   #140
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What was your overall impression of The Help? If you could rate the text on a 10-point scale, what would you give it and why?

Let's also think about our beloved characters. I'm partial to Aibileen; this is perhaps because she opened and closed the novel for us. One of the on-going questions in her mind is what Mae Mobley would be like in the future. Do you think that Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother if Aibileen had stayed working for Miss Elizabeth? Based on this, would you say that racism is taught behavior or inherrent? Why?
On a scale of 1-10...I'd give The Help...10++...based on how hard the ending made me cry ...please pass the kleenex

Favorite characters, I loved them all but if I had to choose...it's gotta be Minnie I will never eat a chocolate pie again without having a big laugh and just all she went through with Celia. Then the ups and downs of Minnie's life - I can't wait to see her on the big screen.

In my mind, racism is a taught behavior which can also be "un-taught". So I'd have to say that Aibileen being such a wonderful teacher, did an excellent job and made a positive life long impression on Mae Mobley. Mae Mobley would definitely grow up to be a free thinker and one day, would tell her mother to stuff it!
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Old 05-06-2010, 06:58 PM   #141
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In my mind, racism is a taught behavior which can also be "un-taught". So I'd have to say that Aibileen being such a wonderful teacher, did an excellent job and made a positive life long impression on Mae Mobley. Mae Mobley would definitely grow up to be a free thinker and one day, would tell her mother to stuff it!
I have to agree with you here. I also believe that racism is both taught and can be un-taught. I think it really relates to Mae Mobley as you described above. Good point!
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Old 05-06-2010, 07:05 PM   #142
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i've missed the last two questions, mostly because they are so very, very hard to answer.

i'd say i'd give the book about an 8. i loved the characters and the plot, but i wasn't totally blown away by it. i'm sure i am not alone in wishing that we were given more of the after-story: if Skeeter ever acknowledged that it was her work, if Minnie was able to truly leave Leroy and stay working for Miss Ce
lia, if attitudes around town changed any following the book, etc.

Unfortunately, i do think that Mae Mobley would have grown up racist. In fact, Aibileen continuing to work there probably would have been her only chance at having an outside force working to make her think otherwise. I assume that the family would have simply hired another maid after firing Aibileen, and it is doubtful that the new maid would have been as progressive and honest as Aibileen is with Mae. i absolutely adored the scene where Mae Mobley tells her father that she had been learning about equality from her teacher, but it is likely she would lose that lesson in a few years.

i think that blind, ignorant hatred of others is a learned behavior out of inherent instinct - we are all naturally wary of others, but to be suspicious of an entire group is something that is conditioned.
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Old 05-09-2010, 12:08 PM   #143
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This is a question I got from the author's official website. I thought it'd be fun to discuss.

From the perspective of a twenty-first century reader, the hairshellac system that Skeeter undergoes seems ludicrous. Yet women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of "beauty" changes with the times. Looking back on your past, what's the most ridiculous beauty regimen you ever underwent?
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Old 05-09-2010, 12:09 PM   #144
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Let's start simply. What was your overall impression of The Help? If you could rate the text on a 10-point scale, what would you give it and why?
I would rate the book at 10! I absolutely LOVED it. I must admit, like some movies I was disappointed not to find out what happens to them all in the future but I got over that quickly. The book really made me think, cry and was just pure joy to read.

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Do you think that Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother if Aibileen had stayed working for Miss Elizabeth? Based on this, would you say that racism is taught behavior or inherent? Why?
I think that Mae Mobley would have been torn like Ms. Skeeter. She of course would grow up caring for Aibileen however would also love her parent just because and that would have caused her internal conflicts. I do think it would have been easier for her as a grown up to confront those conflicts vs Ms. Skeeter just due to the changing times.
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Old 05-09-2010, 12:22 PM   #145
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From the perspective of a twenty-first century reader, the hairshellac system that Skeeter undergoes seems ludicrous. Yet women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of "beauty" changes with the times. Looking back on your past, what's the most ridiculous beauty regimen you ever underwent?
I confess to trying straightener (once) and ironing my hair in the 60's. Arrow straight hair was "in". The funny side is that I actually burned my neck with the iron and it looked like a hickie - trust me, no guy was getting close enough to me in Jr High to make that a possibility, but it was embarrising just the same!

BTW - I give the book a 9+, and I am a tough grader!!
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Old 05-09-2010, 07:06 PM   #146
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I have to admit that my horrid beauty regimen related to my hair as well. I got a wicked perm back in the third grade (totally my idea, if I am remembering correctly lol), and it was just plain awful. I honestly looked like little orphan Annie! I must have burned all of my school pictures that year!
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Old 05-11-2010, 01:35 PM   #147
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This is a question I got from the author's official website. I thought it'd be fun to discuss.

From the perspective of a twenty-first century reader, the hairshellac system that Skeeter undergoes seems ludicrous. Yet women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of "beauty" changes with the times. Looking back on your past, what's the most ridiculous beauty regimen you ever underwent?

LOL! I had a curl in 6th grade. Talk about awful. UGH!!!
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Old 05-11-2010, 07:28 PM   #148
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What's a curl??
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Old 05-12-2010, 08:47 PM   #149
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beauty regimen

Quote:
Originally Posted by *NikkiBell* View Post
This is a question I got from the author's official website. I thought it'd be fun to discuss.

From the perspective of a twenty-first century reader, the hairshellac system that Skeeter undergoes seems ludicrous. Yet women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of "beauty" changes with the times. Looking back on your past, what's the most ridiculous beauty regimen you ever underwent?
For a few years I did these god awful perms thinking my hair just had to have body....at times I literally looked like I had Roseanne Roseanna Danna hair....some of you may be too young to remember that character on SNL. Good lord, what was I thinking? In the 80's I did the spiral perm....slightly better but VERY expensive. Unfortunately, there are pics to prove all of this so it may come back to haunt me.
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