The main theme of the book is racial prejudice and bigotry—hate directed toward blacks in respect to their race. All the white characters in the novel, with the exception of Skeeter, are racists, even though many are not aware of it. They treat the black maids poorly because they believe that they are stupid and inferior. Throughout the novel, the whites are always referring to the maids or, blacks in general, in descriptive terms that usually apply to animals, suggesting that blacks have more in common with animals than humans. The whites in the novel build social barriers between themselves and the blacks mainly based upon their fears. Their fears are unfounded, which exposes their raw hatred that in turn is displayed in the daily abuse they inflict on the black maids.
The fact of slavery is mentioned several times by the black maids as their racial lineage, suggesting that the treatment of the maids is just another form of slavery. In addition, most of the maids do not aspire to be treated equally by their employers because they have learned by that inequality is the southern lifestyle. They do not appear to desire equality anymore than the white because of the upheaval it would case in their lives. However, at the end of the novel, they (Minnie and Aibileen) realize that the changes were worth it and a natural progression of living a lifestyle that exemplifies equality.
The white characters are women who have never really left their hometown. They do not confront the social beliefs of their parents or ancestors because they have not separated enough to gain any perspective on the lifestyle that everyone appears to conform to in Jackson. However, Skeeter has left home (Jackson) and returned. She is the only character able to objectively examine the social interactions between the black maids and the white, female employers.
Us vs. Them
(The entire section is 572 words.)