The DIS Book Club Discussion Group: Round 2 - The Help

Discussion in 'The DIS Unplugged Podcast' started by *NikkiBell*, Apr 4, 2010.

  1. Hankshouse

    Hankshouse Mouseketeer

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    To what extent do you think a person's flaws, such as racist attitudes and behaviors, can be forgiven because it is the norm in the surrounding culture?

    This is a great and thought provoking question! If you are in an environment where you know nothing else, it's difficult to live your life otherwise. But, if a person is witnessing a change (i.e. events like the race riots of the '60's or the preachings of MLK...) and in your heart you know you need to take stand but don't...choosing to stand idly by while injustice flourishes around you...that would be hard to "forgive". We just had a tragic event here in the New York area, where a mortally wounded homeless person lay dying on the sidewalk. Rather than come to this man's aid, people stopped, stared and walked on by. Why? Because he was judged by others for being homeless. Inhumane at best and unforgiveable, in my eyes. There are times in world history when this same situation could have occurred if a Jewish man or a black man lay there. Again, completely unforgiveable.
     
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  3. *NikkiBell*

    *NikkiBell* The WDW Merchandise Walking Bible Moderator

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    Hanksmouse, you have some great ideas here in your post. I saw that news story this morning while eating breakfast and was just shocked. I couldn't get over the fact that this poor man lay dying on the sidewalk and people just stepped around him. I am not sure if this took place because they were ignorant/afraid or if it was because he was homeless. Either way, this is such a sad, sad expression of inhumane thinking.

    I finished the book yesterday myself, but will keep to the deadlines for our discussions. I really like the above topic and want to give everyone a chance to comment on it before moving forward. You all have awesome ideas! Keep them coming! :)
     
  4. Hankshouse

    Hankshouse Mouseketeer

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    Oh no!! I hope I haven't become a dreaded...threadkiller :scared1:

    Please, say it ain't so :flower3:
     
  5. mainegal

    mainegal <font color=purple>I am becoming very good at maki

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    Still here!

    Why, in the same paragraph, does Aibileene call Elizabeth's daughter Baby Girl and Mae Mobley?
     
  6. MaryJ

    MaryJ <font color=660099>Believes in Tag Gremlins, not T

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    Baby Girl is a term of endearment. It would be no different than if a person said to their daughter "Susie, come here honey." Susie is the child's name, but honey is a term of endearment.
     
  7. *NikkiBell*

    *NikkiBell* The WDW Merchandise Walking Bible Moderator

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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?
     
  8. Tink rules

    Tink rules <font color=teal>The kids in my family sometimes t

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    Still reading... will probably be done this weekend... can't wait to read and join in the discussion! :thumbsup2
     
  9. *NikkiBell*

    *NikkiBell* The WDW Merchandise Walking Bible Moderator

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    Great, Michelle! We look forward to seeing you! :)
     
  10. mainegal

    mainegal <font color=purple>I am becoming very good at maki

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    Thanks. That totally didn't connect for me.

    There was a pop song a few years back where the singer about to or about his "baby girl" who I assume was his girlfriend. I bothered me to no end to hear a woman called "baby girl", just seemed demeaning.

    Makes some sense to call a three year old "baby girl".
     
  11. mainegal

    mainegal <font color=purple>I am becoming very good at maki

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    Thanks, Nikki, for asking such though provoking questions.

    I must be leading either a charmed or protected life. I have never personally known anyone in an abusive domestic relationship. I was exposed to many such relationships during the year that I was on grand jury. I do wonder why people stay in a relationship that is abusive. I guess I do see the individual (usually a woman) as lacking a good sense of self and being overly dependant on their partner.

    If I had my way, I'd teach women to be self-supporting as much as possible, to know that they have a world of possiblities, to realize they are with their partner by choice not for economic reasons.

    As is my habit, about halfway through a book I read the last few pages, then read skip and scan. I guess I get impatient. Now I am reading page by page in proper order. I am amazed by the fullness of character and story. what a great first novel! Can't wait to get back reading it tonight.

    I have ordered the audiobook for the library. I have heard that the three women narrating are fantastic.
     
  12. AnneR

    AnneR DIS Veteran

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    Excellent question - if we really knew the answer we could probably solve most cases of abuse. Abuse is a very complicated issue that has both physical and psychological factors. I think we can all relate to being in a relationship and staying in it because we were not ready to move to the next thing whether it was a new relationship or being single. Sometimes what we know is better than what we don't know. When our self confidence is low, we will stay with what we know.

    I think the other factors that influenced Minny were the societal factors of the day - while divorce was legal, it was looked at as a failure. I think that Minny did not want to see herself as failing in this part of her life. She certainly struggled with her self-confidence regarding maintaining her employment. Additionally, it is clear that she was taught to keep her mouth shut and do her work. I have the sense that these women expected their life to be hard.

    I will hold the rest until we have all finished the book.
     
  13. Tink rules

    Tink rules <font color=teal>The kids in my family sometimes t

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    Finished the book about 6 AM this morning... yes.. I stayed up all night...

    Will be back to read later... must get some sleep.
     
  14. mainegal

    mainegal <font color=purple>I am becoming very good at maki

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    I have been divorced 18 years. I still feel a sense of "failure". It was a part of my life that certainly did not work out the way I wanted it to.

    Minny told Miss Celia she fell in the bathtub rather than confirn Celia's suspicion. Last night I read the part where Minny took off the bandage and ice pack as she walked down the street. So proud, she did not want her neighbors know that Leroy beat her. I am so glad that Minny could be herself with her friend Aibileen.

    Damn! Why must women think it is "their fault"?!?!!

    From where I peeked at the end, I know that Minny did finally have "enough". I am so glad!
     
  15. AnneR

    AnneR DIS Veteran

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    I know what you mean about the personal sense of failure as your marriage falls apart. I know for me that I at least don't feel judged by my peers. I am glad that I live in a time that accepts that relationships end and that "society" is not blaming one party or the other.

    Having finished the book Lyn, you will like how the story ends.
     
  16. rainydayplay

    rainydayplay DIS Veteran

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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.
     
  17. tammyroo

    tammyroo Mouseketeer

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    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.
     
  18. *NikkiBell*

    *NikkiBell* The WDW Merchandise Walking Bible Moderator

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    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!
     
  19. *NikkiBell*

    *NikkiBell* The WDW Merchandise Walking Bible Moderator

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    Well, the time has come. By now, everyone should have finished The Help! :banana: 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?
     
  20. MNTwinsMom

    MNTwinsMom Mouseketeer

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    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.
     
  21. Hankshouse

    Hankshouse Mouseketeer

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    On a scale of 1-10...I'd give The Help...10++...based on how hard the ending made me cry :sad: ...please pass the kleenex :laughing:

    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 :rotfl2: 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! :laughing:
     

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