What literary archetypes can be used when reading The Help to assist in the reviewing of characters?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There can be many archetypes that can help to illuminate the literary qualities of Stockett's work.  The archetype of "the task" is seen in both Skeeter and Aibileen. For Skeeter, assembling the narratives that will form her writing is a mammoth task given the social conditions of Jackson and the reticence of many to either support it or speak on its behalf.  At the same time Aibileen faces a similar archetype when she has to undertake a new voyage in her life which will include writing as being a member of the help has been closed to her forever.  This embodies "the task" because of the fear and uncertainty that it carries, meant only for the strong of heart which is what Aibileen has become as a result of her narrative.

The archetype between good and evil forms a major component of the work.  Essentially, Hilly and the members of her bridge club represent the forces of evil.  Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minnie are the triumvirate who must face this adversary down.  The collision between both realms defines the conflict of the novel.  It becomes clear that evil in the form of Hilly will not surrender power without an intense fight.  The resolve it takes to defeat evil is one of the defining elements of the work.

Stockett shows the power of writing as a way to weapon that good can use to defeat evil.  Skeeter embraces this on a public level and Aibileen does on a private one.  Both women use their skills at writing in challenging the forces of evil that surround and envelop them.  As they employ more people in their struggle, writing becomes the archetypal weapon that the hero uses to fight off evil and make right that which is wrong.

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