The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

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What deepens Aibileen's bitterness toward white society?

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Aibileen's bitterness towards white society is worsened by the way in which the white child she cares for and loves, Mae Mobley, is treated by her own mother, Elizabeth Leefolt. Elizabeth abuses her daughter and regards her as a pest. For example, Elizabeth tells Aibileen during her bridge club meeting, "And you make sure Mae Mobley's not coming in on us, now" (page 3). Elizabeth is angry at her daughter for doing the things that two-year-olds do, such as tearing up her stationery, and she also dislikes her daughter because, as Aibileen admits about Mae Mobley, "She ain't gone be no beauty queen" (page 2). Mae Mobley is not a good-looking child, and Elizabeth wants to keep her child out of her sight as much as possible. Elizabeth also neglects Mae Mobley and leaves her in a dirty diaper until Aibileen comes to change the child each morning.

Aibileen's own son, Treelore, died at age 24 when he was working at a mill, and she comes to regard Mae Mobley as her own child. She is constantly telling Mae Mobley that she is good and smart to counteract Elizabeth's hurtful treatment of her own child. Witnessing Elizabeth's abuse of her daughter deepens Aibileen's resentment. 

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There is a great deal that deepens Aibileen's feelings of bitterness towards White society.  She is not consumed with this bitterness, but it is there because of the condition of her life and what she has experienced.  One such example would be her role as "the help."  She raises White children, teaching them lessons of goodness and importance only to see these children corrupted by Southern racism and become the new people in the position of racist power.  There is something bitter about this experience in seeing her nurturing and care result in something  completely opposite.  Seeing the condition of racism and discrimination corrupt her own efforts helps to instill bitterness within Aibileeen.

Along with this aspect of blighted nuturing would be her own maternal instincts being gutted with the death of her son.  Treelore's death caused a bitterness within Aibileen because of the unnatural way in which he died.  Supplementing this would be the elemental reality that haunts her:  She nurtures and protects children that are not her own but she could not protect her own child from harm.  The social experience of bitterness that is a part of Aibileen's experience has personal roots, as well.

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