Comment on the narrative structure of The Help.

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrative structure of this excellent and poignantly moving novel is based around the first person account of three women who are the principal protagonists in the story. Skeeter is the one white woman out of the three characters who works with two black women working as maids, Aibileen and Minnie, to capture the narrative of their experiences over the years as black women working for white families as maids. The first person narrative from each of these characters greatly endears them to us as readers, as they discuss their feelings and motives. Included in their accounts, of course, are a number of flashbacks as the various characters remember events that have a bearing on the present. One example of this would be Skeeter's memories of her maid when she was a child and her attempts to establish what happened to her and why she vanished so abruptly. Another would be the flashback that Aibileen has as she remembers the circumstances surrounding her son's tragic accident. The way in which the three accounts are woven together, and at times each of the characters comment on the other two, adds real depth and profundity to this excellent novel.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrative structure of The Help includes sections narrated in the first person by Aibileen, Minny, and Miss Skeeter. Each person has a very different voice and an individual perspective on the events unfolding in the story, as Aibileen and Minny are African American maids while Skeeter is a college-educated white woman. Aibileen has a first-hand perspective on what is happening in the Leefolt house, while Minny is privy to the secrets of Celia Foote. Miss Skeeter narrates what occurs among the white women she is friends with, including Elizabeth and Hilly. Each person has a different perspective on the early Civil Rights movement unfolding in Mississippi in the early 1960s. 

The narrative structure provides a voice for the African American domestics that Skeeter is also trying to capture in the book she is writing for Missus Stein, her New York editor. The Help is a book within a book, as it is both a narration of how Skeeter is writing her book and a kind of replica of what she is writing.