What are the conflicts in The Help?

1 Answer

e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

There are a number of conflicts in Stockett's novel. We can identify four main conflicts relating to the four central figures of the novel.

Beginning with Aibileen, we see a conflict relating to perception and caring and how people treat one another. This conflict is embodied in the ways Elizabeth sees and treats both Aibileen and Mae Mobley.

While Aibileen struggles to instill a positive self-image in Mae Mobley and tries to teach her to see past skin color, Elizabeth reprimands and diminishes both Mae Mobley and Aibileen. The loss of her son is also part of Aibileen's conflict as she strives to change the way people see one another in Jackson. 

Minny's conflict is two-fold. She is challenged to learn to be understanding and compassionate and to let her guard down. Initially, Minny takes no chances with people she does not know, but as her character grows through the story, Minny learns to trust Celia and Skeeter. Minny's other conflict is one of confidence and abuse.

While she is a strong person, she also suffers from low self-esteem; and her husband beats her regularly.

She has to find a way to escape the abusive treatment from her husband and learn to trust herself to be alright on her own. 

Skeeter has two conflicts as well and, like Minny, one conflict is internal and the other external. Skeeter has an identity conflict that drives many of her decisions in the novel. She is attempting to navigate her mother's expectations for her as well as her own. This leads her to get a job as a journalist, to write to New York about publishing jobs there, and to undertake the book project with Aibileen.

She perceives herself as different than the other white women in her social group in Jackson. She feels like an outcast.

She does not belong in Jackson, but she tries to fit in. This is her internal conflict. 

Externally, Skeeter is in conflict with Hilly. Hilly's antagonism represents the fourth major conflict in the novel. Not only is Hilly in conflict with Skeeter, she is also in conflict with Minny, Celia, and Aibileen. Hilly's opinions are the force, symobolic and actual, that Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny fight against with their book project. She is a bigot, a hypocrite, and a local power. She is the negative voice of the community that the book project seeks to expose and to temper.