The Help Questions and Answers
by Kathryn Stockett

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What does the incident with the prowler who harasses Minny and Celia reveal about their personalities in Kathryn Stockett's The Help?

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In the twenty-fourth chapter of Kathryn Stockett's novel The HelpMinnie and Miss Celia see a white man outside Miss Celia's house. He is watching them and touching himself indecently. When he realizes Minnie has seen him, he makes a violent gesture at her. Minnie is protective of Miss Celia, telling her to lock herself inside while Minnie chases him off, lest he do something to them. Minnie chases the prowler down with a broom. He hurls insults at her and threatens her, but Minnie gets in a few good whacks with the broom. When she is looking away, however, the man punches her. Miss Celia steps and beats the man with the fire poker until he gives up and stops taunting the women.

Both Minnie and Miss Celia have had to fight all their lives. Miss Celia grew up in an impoverished white community and had to fight boys, other girls, and possibly even people older than herself in order to stay safe. Minnie has had to fight against racial, sexual, and intimate partner violence. When this strange man violated the women's personal, private space by touching himself in the yard, they did not simply hide themselves indoors and call the police, though that would have been a valid course of action. In an action that was both literal self defense and a symbolic gesture — the two were interrupted from a conversation about violence caused by men — these women took up the fight themselves. 

If we think about how other characters in the book might have responded, like Miss Hilly, we can really see how Minnie and Miss Celia are quite exceptional when considering the gender roles of the time. 

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