What is the main question The Help asks?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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For me, the main question that this excellent novel asks us is if equality is possible in a situation or a context where one group of people is made to work for another group of people and do the work that this last group of people do not want to do themselves. The direct message of how racial discrimination impacts black-white relationships between maids and their employers is explored explicitly through the interviews that Skeeter conducts with the maids that are willing to share their story. The surprising facts that these interviews uncover paint a mixed picture. Whilst the overall trend is one of discrimination and maltreatment, there are some examples of genuine friendship and loyalty, in spite of the racial discrimination that pervades the setting. Consider what Elizabeth tells Skeeter about her relationship with her made in Chapter 33:

Skeeter, Louvenia is the bravest person I know. Even with all her own troubles, she sits down and talks to me. She helps me get through my days. When I read what she wrote about me, about helping her with her grandson, I've never been so grateful in my life. It was the best I'd felt in months.

The book then does not seem to give us a direct answer to this central question. For every example of an abusive relationship between employer and maid, as the way that Hilly attempted to manipulate Minny demonstrates, there appears to be a good, positive example. In an overall atmosphere of inequality, some relationships show that equality and mutual understanding is able to emerge.

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