How does William Faulkner's Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech share certain aspects with Kathryn Stockett's "The Help"?

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Two elements of Faulkner's speech seen in Stockett's The Help are the lasting voice of the artist when all else spells otherwise and how the capacity to endure and eventually triumph defines human identity.

For African- Americans, the world of Jackson in The Help is the social equivalent of Faulkner's "atomic age."  Segregation carries devastating legal and social effects. African- Americans are maligned, harassed, and even killed with little hope of achieving justice.  They are maligned to the margins, silenced and forced to endure humiliation on a daily basis in so many ways. The world in which they live as well as their attitude towards it represent Faulkner's "general and universal fear."  

Despite this reality, Faulkner suggests that there can be redemption.  He sees hope in the words of the artist.  The world might consist of deafening fear and silence, but Faulkner believes that "there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking...."  This idea can be seen in Stockett's work.  Skeeter writing about the life of the women who constitute "the help" is an example of "one more sound" in a very dark world.  Through her book, she is able to bring voice to the voiceless, power to the powerless. Her book becomes not only "the record of man" but also one of "the pillars to help him endure and prevail."  As more women join the writing of the book, they assert strength.  Skeeter's writing enables the women of "the help" to "endure" and eventually "prevail" over oppressive conditions.  

The capacity for human suffering is another shared element between Faulkner's speech and Stockett's work. Faulkner talks about how the essential characteristics of human beings enable them to find success even through considerable struggle:

I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.

The primary characters in Stockett's work display this combination of compassion, sacrifice, and endurance in their voice.  Skeeter sacrifices much in the writing of the book.  She experiences social isolation at the hands of Hilly.  Yet, she shows grace towards the women who help her write it. In this dynamic, Skeeter shows sacrifice, compassion, and endurance.   Aibileen embodies Faulkner's definition of humanity in a much deeper manner.  She has sacrificed much throughout her life, losing her son as well as her voice because of being "the help."  Yet, she never lost her compassion, as evidenced in the care she shows towards "Baby Girl."  She is like the lotus who does not take the form of the world around her and is able to maintain her form and character.  However, she shows strength and endurance.  This is seen in the way she teaches Baby Girl about Civil Rights and how she challenges Hilly.  Aibileen is ready to take what she has experienced and start a new life by the end of the novel. This demonstrates her ability to endure and eventually triumph over the destructive forces around her.  In both Aibileen and Skeeter is Faulkner's spirit of humanity.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,929 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question