The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

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Prove that The Help is a work of historical fiction.  I need at least 5 points to prove that it is a work of historical fiction. So far, I know that the racial conflicts within the story make it a work of historical fiction because of the history of racism and the civil rights movement.

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Hilly Holbrook's attempts to pass The Home Help Sanitation Initiative reflect a major conflict in the novel. The bill would require all Mississippi families to build outdoor bathrooms for their black employees and establishes a key conflict that fuels racism and segregation in the novel. Hilly believes black people carry diseases that are transmittable to white people through using the same toilet seat. You could comment on this plot point by comparing it to Jim Crow laws associated with public health.

In chapter 14, Aibileen and Minny learn that Medgar Evers, a field secretary of the NAACP, was shot and killed in front of his home by a white man. As an activist figure in Jackson's black community, it provides a fearful reminder of the dangers associated with advocating for change. You could discuss the historical context of the NAACP and its role in the civil rights movement.

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In order to be able to list five separate illustrations, break down the wide response of "racial conflicts within the story" into some of the separate items included under the topic of racial conflicts.

It is a historical fact that separate but equal facilities were the legal requirement in the South in that time period, but that the equality was frequently lacking. This could be illustrated by referring to housing, facilities within specific homes (toilets), stores (consider the quality and variety of foods available at the different grocery stores), and transportation.

You could look at employment trends in the South in the 1960's. What percentage of the white population worked as domestic help in comparison with the percentage of the black population that did so? You could also reference Skeeter's struggle to be accepted as a young, female writer of serious news as opposed to household hints.

Specific historical events are cited within The Help. These could also be referenced to establish the link to history.

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