What are some similarities between To Kill A Mockingbird and The Help in terms of their themes, symbols, and context?We have an essay to write on the similarities between TKAM and The Help. I have...

What are some similarities between To Kill A Mockingbird and The Help in terms of their themes, symbols, and context?

We have an essay to write on the similarities between TKAM and The Help. I have a couple points but are there any other similarities that have to do with theme, symbols, etc.?

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tmcquade | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Several similarities exist between these two novels.  First, in their contexts, both are set in the South during times of segregation.  In both, Blacks and Whites live in separate communities, and Jim Crow laws are very prominent.  In To Kill a Mockingbird, which is set in the 1930's, these laws had not yet been challenged; however, The Help is set in the 1960's, after change was already occurring around the South as a result of the Civil Rights movement.  By the end of the book, for example, Aibileen is able to go to the "White" library to check out books. 

In both books, a common theme arises around the tensions that result from the two groups coming together.  Many of the Black citizens in both books travel into the white community to work on a daily basis - they spend many hours in close contact with White families, often as housekeepers and nannies.  While the White women see their presence as a necessity, it still at times makes them uncomfortanble - as seen in Hilly's campaign for separate bathrooms.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Calpurnia spends a great deal of time in the Finch household, cooking, cleaning, and caring for the children.  Atticus holds her in high esteem and offers her his full support when Aunt Alexandra, who sees her as just a maid, tries to say she is no longer needed:

"Alexandra, Calpurnia's not leaving this house ... until she wants to. You may think otherwise, but I couldn't have got along without her all these years. She's a faithful member of this family and you'll simply have to accept things the way they are" (ch. 14).

In The Help, Aibileen and Minny, along with many other maids, tell their stories of being maids/nannies to White families and the "love-hate" relationship that this often involves.   Some have warmer relationships with their "bosses" than others - Louvenia, for example, has very positive things to say about her boss, LouAnne, for helping her when her grandson was injured and blinded.  Any who have worked for Hilly, though, know just how difficult being a maid can be.  Many talk of the difficulty of growing to love the children they help raise, then watching them grow up to become prejudiced and discriminating.

Another common theme in both books has to do with courage - not being afraid to stand up and do the right thing, even though it might bring harm to yourself or even though "you know you're licked before you begin" (Lee, ch. 13).  All of the maids who share their stories know there could be trouble as a result, especially Minny, who knows just how mean-spirited and retaliatory Hilly can be.  But they tell their stories anyway.  Atticus knows that defending Tom could bring trouble for himself and his family, but he also knows it's the right thing to do - so he doesn't let fear stop him.

A key symbol throughout The Help is the red satchel that Skeeter carries with her wherever she goes.  This satchel holds all of her interviews, drafts, and final copies of her manuscript. This could be compared to the brief case Atticus carries into court for Tom Robinson's trial.  Both contain important papers that the two are using to try to better the conditions for Blacks in society.

And just as Tom Robinson is unfairly and wrongly judged in To Kill a Mockingbird and becomes an important "mockingbird" figure, or symbol, several characters in The Help face unfair and wrong judgments and punishments, including Louvenia's grandson and various maids who are fired or accused of stealing by Hilly.


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