What are some points of comparison and contrast between the movie and book versions of The Help by Kathryn Stockett?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Movies made from books are never quite the same as the books themselves, and it would be unrealistic to expect them to be. There are many reasons for this, and any comparison/contrast of a book and movie must consider what the changes are and perhaps even why they were made. In The Help by Kathryn Stockett, you might consider the following general issues: what things were left out, what things were added, and what things were changed. 

Some omissions in the movie include the following:

  • The entire issue of Cecilia's miscarriages is completely omitted from  the movie.
  • Aibilene's reason for leaving all the white children she raised is not given (perhaps to tone down the reality from the book that these children eventually grew up to despise her and she always left before this could happen and before her heart could be broken).
  • The whole "naked man" incident is not in the movie. 

Some additions made to the movie include the following:

  • In the book, Aibilene tells Skeeter she changed her mind about writing the book because of Miss Hilly. In the movie, she says God is the reason she changed her mind and then adds Miss Hilly. 
  • The editor seemed to take on a little more significance in the movie (or perhaps he was just a bit more of a character, though this falls into the category of opinion).

Some changes made to the movie include the following:

  • The relationship between Celia Foote and Minnie is so much more complex in the book, and that dynamic is rather glossed over in the movie. Minnie just needs a job and Celia is desperate to learn to cook; their relationship includes many instances and more subtle nuances which are not reflected in the movie (oh, and Celia learns to cook?!?).
  • The same is true of the relationship between Constantine, her daughter Rachel, and Skeeter's mother, Charlotte Phelan. In the movie Mrs. Phelan sends Constantine away simply because she is too weak to stand up to her white friends; in the book, that act is much more deliberate, cruel, and unwarranted. And the movie Rachel is black, not "high yellow" as she is described in the book.
  • Minnie is a sympathetic character in the book (at least somewhat sympathetic), but she does have a history of being mouthy and getting fired. This is not depicted in the movie. 
  • A lot of the torment Skeeter receives from those she thought were her friends, particularly from Hilly, is downplayed in the movie.
  • Much of Skeeter's relationship with Stuart in the book has been eliminated, or at the very least condensed, in the movie.

Some of these changes are significant and others are not, but movies will always be at least a little different from the books from which they were written. Obviously the movie has to condense and omit to fit an acceptable movie time frame; however, what is always most interesting is what the changes say about the director's (and scriptwriter's) point of view about things. and what these changes say about his personal beliefs, his motives, and his intended audience. 

Many of the characters did not quite fit the physical descriptions in the book, but most of the major elements from the book were captured in the movie, including the "terrible awful" thing and Aibilene's memorable statement to Mae Mobley:

"You is kind. You is smart. You is important."

You could organize these issues by character, plot, and meaning--or whatever else seems useful to you based on your assignment. You can undoubtedly think of many other examples, but this list should get you started.

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