What are the symbols and motifs in The Help?  Are there any mentioned on a regular basis?

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teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Actually, the phrase "the help" is a recurring motif throughout the novel.  Obviously, the phrase is used literally to refer to the maids; however, the phrase is also used to define the myriad relationships that are developed among white families and their maids.  As Skeeter and Aibileen complete the book with the other maids, it becomes evident that several families have become dependent on their maids.  Minny provided all care for Hilly's mother and when she was fired, Hilly's mother went into a senior facility.  Other families are equally dependent on their maids.  Yet other families appear to be indifferent to their maids and treat them with little civil regard, such as Hilly's treatment of her maids.  Then there are others who stand up for their maids even in times of hardship such as Celia's standing up for Minny even after she finds out Minny's terrible secret.  These variations complicate the racial divide in Southern society which is one of the themes that Stockett explores in her novel.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pies are a symbol and a motif that occur regularly in the novel. Minny bakes a pie with feces in it that she gives to Hilly as a way to get back at Hilly for her poor treatment. The pie is a symbol of the way in which Hilly and the other white women rely on their domestic help, as Minny is an excellent baker and cook, and it is also a way in which the maids can exert some power over the white women they work for. The white women need their help to cook for them, so the African American maids also have some power over their employers.

Sheets are another motif. Minny complains about having to change sheets in Celia's house, as the sheets are filled with hair, scabs, and other personal signs. Minny feels that having to change sheets is offensive and something that only family members should have to do. Sheets are a sign of the way in which the maids have to do things that are repulsive for their white employers.