I am looking for some guidance about how to compare a conflict in Kathryn Stockett's book The Help to a real-life situation.

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the main conflicts in The Help is that between individual conscience versus the norms or values of the larger society. For example, Skeeter has been friends with Hilly and Elizabeth since elementary school, and they also roomed together at Ole Miss (page 54). However, Skeeter begins to feel more and more distant from her old friends, in part because they are already married and have children while she does not and in part because they espouse racist ideas that she objects to. She decides to write stories about the way the African-American domestics around her are treated because she knows that the way their employers treat the maids is wrong, but she keeps her activities secret from her white friends and her family. She is doing what she thinks is right, but she has to defy the values of her society and act in secret to do so.

Skeeter also thinks the way in which women are supposed to act in her community is wrong for her. When she skims the help wanted ads, she finds no jobs for women, except work as a stenographer, though she worked hard at college to learn to write (pages 58-59). In her world, women are supposed to get married and have children as soon as possible, and her friends and her mother desperately want to see her married and don't support her desire to work. She eventually has to leave Mississippi to go to New York to find the type of job in editorial work that she wants. There are many real-life situations that involve people not agreeing with the values of their society and having to leave it (or try to change it) to find a life that suits them.

Another major source of conflict in the novel is that African-American domestics such as Aibileen cannot always say what is on their mind because their society does not allow that. For example, Aibileen knows that the way in which Elizabeth Leefolt treats her little daughter, Mae Mobley, is abusive, but there is nothing Aibileen can say about it because she needs a job and has little power in the community where she lives. There are many real-life situations in which a person does not have the power to say or do what he or she wants, including in situations such as African-American people in the Jim Crow South or even, to a lesser degree, young people in school or at work. This type of situation develops when one group or person has more power than another group or person. There are many real-life situations that develop between the more powerful and less powerful, including conflicts between parents and children, between teachers and students, or between bosses and employees. These types of conflicts could give you some ideas about what to write about.