How does The Help effectively prove that deep-rooted prejudice and racism existed?

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

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The characters in Stockett's work effectively prove that deep- rooted prejudice and racism existed in Jackson during the time period.  

Deep- rooted prejudice and racism impacts every character in The Help. The women who form "the help" cannot escape the presence of prejudicial attitudes.  Women like Aibileen are forced to take care of white children, many times at the cost of nurturing their own.  They then have to see these white children assume the position of power over them, treating them the same way their parents did.  This cycle of intolerance is lasting in the psyche of the women who are "the help."

While these women provide an invaluable service in terms of nurturing and raising white children, they find themselves the victims of intolerance through segregationist practices.  Having to sit in the back of the bus, in a different part of the restaurant, and live in a different area of town are all ways where racial discrimination impacts their lives.  Women like Minnie are forced to mind what they say and suffer massive consequences for speaking the truth. African- Americans in the novel cannot go a moment without feeling the embedded layers of discrimination present in Jackson. 

In many respects, the white people in Stockett's work who live in Jackson further prove that deep- rooted prejudice zealously exists.  The women who follow Hilly Holbrooke demonstrate its presence.  Just as African- Americans cannot seem to live a moment without being reminded of racism's presence, white people like Hilly cannot go a moment without using it to consolidate their power.  Her support of segregation as well as her subtle method of abusing the women who she deem as nothing more than "the help" are ways in which she proves that discrimination exists in Jackson.  Even Skeeter must accept that deeply ingrained values of intolerance exist in her world.  She has to confront her mother as to why Constantine was dismissed.  

The desire to challenge the existing social reality of Jackson plays a significant role in Skeeter writing the book.  Even though her own desire to be published is what initially drives her, Skeeter uses the book to address the ingrained attitudes that prevent racial integration and tolerance.  The way the book opens dialogue is a direct response to the firmly entrenched discriminatory practices that have long since existed in Jackson. 

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