Lord ‘Help’ Us All
I wanted to finish reading Kathryn Stockett’s The Help before I saw the movie, and I wanted to see the movie as soon as possible. You can probably see where this is going.
I remember the first time I read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Sophomore English class–known more for being a media-studies class rather than a literature class, but we read our fair share of the classics nonetheless. I remember I read this book cover to cover in one sitting. So. Good.
Reading The Help was, in my mind, like reading Lee’s classic. Although, with that in mind, there were a few differences. While Mockingbird is told from the perspective of a little while girl, The Help is told from the perspectives of two black maids and a twenty-four-year old white misfit. But, in all of their similarities, I noticed one crucial difference between the novels. Mockingbird has a clear two separate sides: black v. white. You’ll find diversity on every level in The Help: Hilly v. Elizabeth (child-rearing), Skeeter/Hilly/Elizabeth v. Celia (social situation), Maids v. Socialites (skin color). Regardless of which direction you slice the relationships, everyone is either “us” or “them.”
There’s been a lot of movement in the past years to create a unity among our culture, to understand the human experience as “one” and not a compilation of individuals. I’m not sure I agree with this sentiment, because it is our nature to see ourselves as separate from others. We were created as individuals: there is not a single person on this earth that is exactly like another. Why do we try so hard to be like everyone else? (I promise I don’t say this in an alternative-lifestyle sort of way).
For years I’ve loved John Lennon’s “Imagine.” I considered it one of my favorite songs, because I loved the simplicity of the rhythms and the honesty of the lyrics. But I actually sat down and listened to it the other day, and I was confused at how bothered I was by what the song was actually saying. “Imagine there’s no countries / It isn’t hard to do / Nothing to kill or die for / And no religion too / Imagine all the people / Living life in peace …” I’m not sure if I would like that world. If there is no religion and nothing to kill/die for, then what is there to believe in and what is there to live for?
What no one takes into account in a “unity” mindset is that when we are all one, we essentially eliminate the “them.” But what about the “them”? Essentially, if the logic is consistent, they would eliminate the “us”. If I did my math correctly, that means no one stands a chance.
As humans, we need an “us” and we need a “them.” But this is not necessarily bad. Skeeter Phelan is white, and Aibileen and Minny are black. There is a clear line of separation, if only in their skin color and financial situation. But Skeeter proves to these women, and the rest of their black community, that their differences can be reconciled. They still exist, but the two sides found a common ground and worked together to create positive results.