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

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Many of the areas that were different between the book and the movie have already been stated, but there was one that surprised me by being different in the movie from the book and surprised me still more by seeming to be more accurate to real life in the movie.

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Many of the areas that were different between the book and the movie have already been stated, but there was one that surprised me by being different in the movie from the book and surprised me still more by seeming to be more accurate to real life in the movie.

At the end of the book, the editor who hired Skeeter to write cleaning articles for the paper agrees, without much hesitation or apparent qualms, to hire Aibilene in her place when Skeeter leaves. In the movie, this is omitted, and it ends with Aibilene leaving Jackson and merely planning to write a book in the future.

Normally, books are much better at creating more realistic situations and are more in depth. However, I found this omission to be actually much more true to what the South would have been like at that time. The editor was a white male, having all-white employees, and writing for an all-white audience. The chances of him hiring a black woman to write for him back then are slim to none. While of course the ending of Aibilene getting a stable job was much more optimistic and seems right and fair in our day, it just is not something that would have happened then—at least not very easily. The movie's ending was much more vague, but it also held out hope. Aibilene would have an uphill battle trying to get her book published, but from what we know of her character, we're more than sure she's up for the challenge, and no doubt, by leaving Jackson and perhaps waiting a few years, her odds of success would certainly improve.

I loved the book, but the "tied up with a bow" ending threw me a little and seemed a bit too optimistic considering the overall tone of the rest of the novel. While the movie certainly left out a lot of things that were good from the book, it included everything necessary to understand the story and the characters and also paid respect to the enormous difficulties faced by black women living in the 1950s by not glossing them over.

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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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