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What are some narrative features of The Help?

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eligesa | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 1, 2013 at 1:13 PM via web

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What are some narrative features of The Help?

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 29, 2013 at 4:28 PM (Answer #1)

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Several notable narratives features enter into discussions of this novel. The most prominent of these will be the use of first-person narrative perspective through multiple characters, use of dialect, and dramatic irony. 

The novel cycles between the first-person narratives of three characters - Aibileen, Skeeter, and Minny. Using multiple characters to narrate a text is uncommon, though not unheard of. William Faulkner used this method of story-telling in As I Lay Dying

Another notable feature of the text is its use of dialect as it constitutes the narrative voices of Minny and Aibileen. While Stockett has received criticism for choosing to voice only the African American characters in dialect and not the Caucasian narrator Skeeter (who is just as Southern and in her dialogue sections speaks with dialect too). 

Tension and anticipation are key elements of the text as well. Stockett demonstrates a keen ability to create tension by using dramatic irony. This occurs when the reader is aware of certain things that some characters in the story are not. As a narrative device, Stockett uses this information discrepency to create tension throughout the novel within each separate story-line. (The reader is often aware that Aibileen and Minny and Skeeter have done something for which they may be caught. The reader then anticipates the moment when Hilly and others will become aware of these acts.)

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