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Inequality and Courage in ‘The Help’ (1960s Mississippi)

The film “The Help” focuses on the lives of Black women working as maids in white people’s homes in Jackson, Mississippi. During the 1960s, when this film was set, the civil rights movement began to gain momentum. Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat, the Little Rock Nine had made a bold step of going to an all-white high school, and people were protesting across the states. Most of the issues are evident throughout the plot of the film. This paper highlights some of these issues and how characters portray them in the movie. Afterward, it offers remedies to these issues while illustrating how the characters should embrace them.

One of the primary issues in this film is the unfair treatment of the colored people. This aspect is evident in the scene where Henry and Aibileen are in a public bus heading home. When the bus stops at the traffic block, the driver instructs the colored people to get off the bus so that the white people can come in. It forces Henry and Aibileen to walk home, unlike the others. Maids, including Aibileen and her best friend Minny, also have to endure mistreatments like setting aside their bathrooms as they “carry different diseases,” withstanding racist statements from their employees, being fired abruptly, and facing exclusion from the job market by the former employees.

Another issue that is evident in this movie is insensitivity. Hilly declines to offer Yule Davis, her new maid, an advance of $75, which she had requested to take her twin sons to college. Afterward, Yule finds a lost ring on the sofa and sells it in a pawn shop. Hilly reports Yule Davis, resulting in her violent arrest. This incident could have been prevented if Hilly had been willing to help Yule Davis. In another instance, Charlotte confesses that she fired Constantine, her former maid, as Rachel, Constantine’s daughter, had disrespected the order of entering the house through the kitchen. Being fired makes Constantine to be heartbroken because of the sacrifices she had made for her boss. There is also evidence of resentment in the film. Aibileen narrates how the death of her only son planted a bitter seed in her. The circumstances that result in the death reveal how hard it would be for her to trust white people.

The characters in the film also show fear. Aibileen, while raising a two-year-old girl, is perturbed by the child’s mother, who seems to have neglected her. Due to the fear of retaliation, she dares not to say anything. Despite having the information Skeeter needs, the maids are unwilling to tell their stories as they may be recognized, leading to their loss of jobs. Skeeter also publishes “The Help” anonymously as she fears that she may face backlash from the white community. Another issue that plays out in this film is revenge. Following her termination, Minny offers Hilly her famous chocolate pie. Minny had baked her excrement into it, which is a form of retaliation to her disrespectful boss. In another instance, Hilly pressures Elizabeth to fire Aibileen while seeking revenge. He claims that Elizabeth had stolen her silverware.

Based on the issues above, white people need to be considerate towards blacks. For instance, the driver at the traffic block could not have inconvenienced Henry and Aibileen for the white passengers to board the bus. They should have provided a safe environment as their bosses and colleagues in society. Also, Hilly should have shown selflessness in her behavior toward Yule Davis. Understanding Yule Davis’s situation and acting accordingly could not have made Davis desperate until she pawned her ring. Besides, one mistake that Constantine’s child had made was not enough for Charlotte to fire him. Regardless of the pressure from society, Charlotte could have considered the sacrifices Constantine had made for him.

Aibeleen also has to have courage in confronting the relationship between Elizabeth and her daughter to prevent any form of neglect as a parent. Besides, she needs to embrace forgiveness as it is one of the ways she can move from her past. She has to embrace healing and positivity as it is a way in which she can practice her faith. Despite the bitterness towards white people, positivity could go a long way toward starting a new life, one with big dreams to achieve.

In conclusion, some of the issues evident in the film include insensitivity, fear, unfair treatment, revenge, and resentment. The ability to embrace the positive side of things, including having courage, showing selflessness, and embracing healing, could go a long way toward black people moving from their past and embracing a new leaf.

Works Cited

Anderson, John (August 5, 2011). “Viola Davis on making ‘The Help’ work”. Newsday. Melville,

NY.Murphy, Mekado (September 11, 2018). “Viola Davis on What ‘The Help’ Got Wrong and How She Proves Herself (Published 2018)”. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331


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