Literary Criticism and Significance
The Help is Kathryn Stockett's debut novel. It has been favored by the critics as a highly readable and accurate portrayal of life in Jackson, Mississippi during the early civil rights movement. Toby Clements at The Telegraph says of The Help, “Each of the many relationships between the large cast of characters is perfectly captured, and there is a layer after layer of irony....but most impressive—and attractive—is the blend of rage and humor with which she writes and that is what makes this novel at once so horrifying and yet so savagely funny.” While most critics have hailed the novel as a success, some have criticized Stockett for her use of outdated dialect. Janet Maslin from the New York Times, said, “The trouble on the pages of Skeeter's book is nothing compared with the trouble Ms. Stockett's real book risks getting into. Here is a debut novel by a Southern-born white author who renders black maid's voices thick, dated dialect.” However, Janet Maslin praises the novel later on in the same review, saying that Aibileen's and Minnie's voices “leap off the page in all their warm, three-dimensional glory.”
Heller McAlpin at the Christian Science Monitor says of The Help, “By addressing not just the injustices but the inexplicable love' that flourishes between servants and their employees, 'The Help' arouses both admiration and indignation.”
The consensus among critics is that The Help is an accurate and highly readable novel set in the south in 1962, accurately portraying the lives of black maids and the white women who employed them.