Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Help ~ answering questions

TH ~ first set of questions

1.  When Minny was 14 years old, her Mama gave her some advice (pp. 38-39). ... do you think (so far) that Minny is following Mama's advice?
One of her mama's rules (#5) was "you eat in the kitchen." It reminds me of Cornelia and makes me want to cry. Neal, as we called her, was my mother's friend. Not only did she visit us, but we visited her and her husband at their house. Yet Neal never, ever sat down to eat with us. Not even when I was grown, with children, and invited her over. On her last Christmas, knowing she'd never sit at the table with us, I had us all eat in the den, holding plates on our laps.  Cornelia's grin went ear to ear.  She cleaned people's houses (though I never saw her wear a uniform), and I can only believe she had the same instructions not to even think about eating with the white folks.  And she never did, even though we were friends.

Okay, I didn't exactly answer the question.  Minny went her own way, pretty much, but mostly she tried to do what it took.  More or less.  She was a character!
2.  Did you pick up on all the ways Crisco can be used?  We could learn a thing or two from Minny, who, early in the book, tried to teach Miss Celia to cook.  Share something you learned from Minny's list of ways to use Crisco (pp. 43-44).
Besides being a reader (I should say bookaholic), I also has a bookstore. I think about stuff like how to remove old price tags stuck to books and chose to mark prices in our used books in pencil on the inside top corner, rather than "defacing" a book with a hard-to-remove sticker. At the store, we used Goo Gone to remove sticky stuff, so I noticed when Minny said Crisco would do that job.
3.  Why did Skeeter's mother object to her college degree?
She sent Skeeter to college to snag a husband!  To get her "Mrs. degree."  Here's their conversation:

"Four years my daughter goes off to college and what does she come home with?" she asks.
"A diploma?"
"A pretty piece of paper," Mother says.
"I told you.  I didn't meet anybody I wanted to marry," I say. (p. 55)
Skeeter:  "I'll never be able to tell Mother I want to be a writer.  She'll only turn it into yet another thing that separates me from the married girls" (p. 56).
4.  Newspaper want ads used to seperate Help Wanted: Female from Help Wanted: Male. ... (p. 59).  Do you remember those days?  Or have you heard an older person talk about what it was like?
Oh, yeah, I remember those days.  When I read this part of the book, I looked back at the dustjacket and saw that the story is set in 1962.  Skeeter was 22 in 1962, so I was her age that year.
TH ~ second set of questions

1.  Who was your favorite character?  Why?
I would have like to know Constantine better.  I was tall like Skeeter, and I loved what Constantine told her when she was crying about being five-eleven:  "Well, I'm five-thirteen, so quit feeling sorry for yourself" (p. 65).  I'm five-nine, but I never cried about my height.  I also liked Aibileen a lot; besides having lots of gumption, she had common sense and really cared about the children in her care.  I also liked Skeeter and what she said near the end of the book:
"Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I thought" (p. 419).
2.  What do you think motivated Hilly?
She was a mean one.  I kept trying to like her, but most of the time I just wanted her to somehow become aware of what it was like to be in the other person's shoes.  I liked toilet seats on the lawn, but the pie?  Now that may have been going too far.  (But you could say she got her just desserts.)
3.  How much of a person's character do you think is shaped by the times in which they live?
A lot, especially what we grow up with in our families.  If I'd lived in Europe during the Dark Ages, I'm sure I would have insisted -- with vigor -- that the earth was flat.  By reading, we open ourselves up to "new worlds" that we haven't actually lived; the stories help us imagine another way of living, another way of doing things.  I don't think we have completely gotten "past" the racist times this book shows us, but at least some things are better.
4.  Do you think Minny was justified in her distrust of white people?
Yes, because we could see it in the story of their lives.  On the other hand, how do we learn to trust each other?  With those racist attitudes then (and to a big extent, now), how can we start to trust?  The "trusting" problem exists with any groups of people who haven't treated each other as equally human:  Israelis and Palestinians, Iraqis and Iranians, and any other group that's "them and us."
5.  Do you think racism is inherent or taught?
I think it's taught.  Children don't recognize differences in the beginning, not until they pick up on what adults say and do.  I remember wondering why dark-skinned people couldn't swim in the pool in my town.  I wondered if the darkness would come off and stain the water or something, like a red shirt tossed into the washer.  It didn't make sense to me.
6.  What did you think about Minny's pie for Miss Hilly?  Would you have gone as far as Minny did for revenge?
What I think?  See #2 above.  No, I wouldn't have gone that far.  I wouldn't even have imagined it, though I agree with Minny's assessment of Hilly:  "She evil, that woman!" (p. 252).  The most evil thing in the book, in my opinion, is when Hilly wouldn't let Yule May borrow $75 -- all they lacked to send their twin sons to college -- and then got the "regular sentence" of six months for petty stealing bumped up to four years in the penitentiary.


Bonnie Jacobs said...

I've answered all the questions for The Help, before we start our August book.

alisonwonderland said...

It's been six months since I read The Help, so I don't remember all the details. But I do remember how it made me feel. I think it's an incredible novel!

Bonnie: You've posted great answers to the questions. The quote from Skeeter that you posted in your answer to #1 in the second set is one of my favorite quotes from the book.