Friday, July 13, 2012

Extras: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

With my specific "Now a Major Motion Picture"copy of The Help by Kathryn Stockett (See image source link!) there are two extras in the back. Whereas I'm not entirely sure what other version these are included in.
I wanted to share my opinion of them and hopefully spark more thought on the story, maybe some dialogue between readers.

There is an essay by Kathryn Stockett and "Reading Group Guide".

The essay is titled "Too Little, Too Late Kathryn Stockett in her words".The essay tells of her personal life, but mostly of her relationship with her own maid, Demetrie.

Personally, I love little added tidbits of information about someone. Even more so, if it's about their private life, I feel it really fleshes them out as a human being, rather than the person we have set in our minds, that is mostly a name attached to what they've done.
Finding out something personal about them, makes you realize they're just as human as everyone else. Especially if they are willingly sharing it.

The funny thing is, most of what I said in my personal note on the actual review for The Help was said by Kathryn Stockett, herself.
She admitted to having the difficultly of trying to imagine what it much have been like to a black, female, domestic worker in the 60s.  How much she fought with herself about trying to be a voice for these women and their views. While also trying to show the complex relationships and lives of everyone involved.
How embarrassed and ashamed she was for being the topic up because she was taught not to discuss such things, but that they do exist. Trying to sweep them under the table just because you don't think it's appropriate, doesn't make the issue go away. Although some people don't believe or even realize there is an issue.

She talked about her life, her maid, and their relationship. Only to realize how important and special it was after it was gone. How her view of the world, and her life, changed as she grew up. How naive and immature she had been, although maybe based on the time and the South.
While the book is dedicated to her grandfather, she said Demetrie is the reason she wrote the book. For the conversations she never got to have, the things that were never said, and the relationship she wouldn't realize she'd miss. For never asking her about her life and how she felt.

It's only a few pages longs but worth the read.

Reading Group Guide

For those who have not read The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
What followers are discussion questions about the book. Meaning, they are filled with spoilers and an open discussion of the book, it's characters, and events.

Discussion Questions

1.) Who is your favourite character? Why?

Either Aibileen or Minny.
While I love of them, alone they have too many flaws. Minny is too hot-headed and doesn't listen to anyone. She does what she wants, says what she thinks, and doesn't care what anyone thinks. While I love that, she made bad choices based on those actions.
Aibileen is quite, wise, and gentle. While I love that she finds something to do with her life, I can't stand how meek she is sometimes.

2.) What do you think motivated Hilly? On one hand she is terribly cruel to Aibileen and her own help, as well as to Skeeter once she realizes that she can't control her. Yet she's a wonderful mothers. Do you think that one can be a good mother and, at the same time, a deeply flawed person?

Yes. People are people, flaws and all. Just because you don't like someone or they have a major flaw doesn't mean they can't be a good parent. Although chances are they won't be.. it doesn't mean they will be.
Besides, in Hilly's case I believe it's about control, image, and her.
Her children are there for her, for her to care for (when she wants to), for her to rear, for her to tent to. Hilly loves nothing more than someone needing her or correcting someone and being in charge.
While it's not odd she's a wonderful mother, it's interesting to consider given her relationship with most people in her life. I believe while her children are young things will be good, it's all about if they rebel later.

3.) Like Hilly, Skeeter's mother is a prime example of someone deeply flawed yet somewhat sympathetic. She seems to care for Skeeter--and she also seems to have very real feelings for Constantine. yet the ultimatum she gives Constantine is untenable, and most of her interactions with Skeeter is critical.
Do you think Skeeter's mother is a sympathetic or unsympathetic character? Why?

Skeeter's mother is very complex, struggling with the image she expected to hold and the ideals she was raised under, verses her daughters view and opinion of the world.
She knows what she feels but can't completely act on it. While sympathetic, she is clearly very trouble in being close or intimate with someone, even her own daughter. Believing that being critical is the best approach to giving Skeeter a chance in the world, and if not the best, the only way she knows how to communicate with her.

4.) How much of a person's character would you say is shaped by the times in which he or she lives?

Very much. The shaping of your character has many factors, mostly the environment your are brought up in, the times and your home life.
However things can be changed or shaped over time due to interactions and personal experiences (both good and bad.)

5.) Did it bother you that Skeeter was willing to overlook so many of Stuart's faults so that she could get married, and that it wasn't until he literally got up and walked away that the engagement fell apart?

Yes, very much.
I hated Skeeter and Stuart's relationship. I felt that Skeeter thought she had to go along and try to please Stuart because he was the first, and only, guy that every seemed interested in her. More than giving her the time of day, actually liked her and wanted to be with her.
She ignored his faults and actions because she was dating him, simply going along with the idea and relationship until he walked away.
I'm not sure if I should blame the times or her mother for that.. but Skeeter acted as if she had no say in a relationship, she smiled and went along.
I felt Stuart used Skeeter as a 'second chance' because of how his last, and very serious, relationship ended. To the point of pressuring her for sex early into the relationship. While briefly brought up, it made an impression on me. I saw it as Stuart using Skeeter as a stand in, any girl would have done, as long as he wasn't alone, and she happened to make him laugh.

6.) Do you believe that Minny was justified in her distrust of white people?

Yes. While each person is different, in the 60s things were the way they were. And in the South, you knew the score. White people might have been nice to their help, but not openly. You never knew how someone treated their help until you worked for them.

7.) Do you think that had Aibileen stayed working for Miss Elizabeth, Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother? Do you think racism is inherent or taught?

I'd hope not. Given Mae Mobly's relationship with Aibileen, I think she will turn out more like Skeeter. Which a different view of the world, even if she keeps it too herself for the most part.

I believe racism is taught. There's an old co-worker of my mothers, who's oldest started dating. A few boyfriend later, she started dating a black guy. Her mother, almost had a heartattack.
They've been together for years. Now her son is 14, and dating, a black girl. Their mother is still struggling with the idea.
I've talked to her about it before, I'll admit a few drinks later she was more willing to talk about why it bothers her.
She admits she knows there's nothing wrong with, but when she was raised.. things were different. The way she was taught, the way she was raised. It takes everything in her to be accepting.. But it's what she knows.. The way she was raised and taught shaped how they saw the world. And it's how she saw the world all her life. (But she's willing to try, which is what matters.)

I think that explains how I feel about inherent/taught.

8.) From the perspective of a twenty-first-century reader, the hair shellac system that Skeeter undergoes seems ludicrous. Yet women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of "beauty" changes with the times. Looking back on your past, what's the most ridiculous beauty regimen you ever underwent?

Honestly, no idea. I have a low maintenance kind of girl.
I've dyed my hair a few times, always done at home by my mom. I've tried a little waxing (like my eyebrows), although I thought it was pointless.

I think it's crazy what people with do in the image of, aka name, of beauty. From fake tanning, to skin bleaching.
Injecting your face to make it less baggy, pulling back skin, all those crazy things.
The fact is, beauty is always different. It's always what you don't have, what you'll probably never have. You might hate you hair and wish you had mine, when in reality I hate my hair and envy yours.
That's always the way the beauty game goes.
Live with what you got. Don't like it? Change it, but you'll still be the one that has to live with it. Changed, unchanged, either way trying to maintain it.

9.) The author manages to paint Aibileen with a quiet grace and an aura of wisdom about her. How do you think she does this?

It's the quiet ones, that you listen to when they finally talk. People that are quiet often observe more, they pay attention to world.
Aibileen has a sort of mellow down to earth quality, that goes with having seen quite a few things happen in the world.

10.) Do you think there are still vestiges of racism in relationships in which people of color work for people who are white?

As much as I'd hope to say 'no', it depends on the people.
There was one place I worked at, where it was an issue. Because of the employee. There were more than a few people of other ethnic groups, that considered many of the white employees and employers racist towards them because they were white.
I remember talking to one co-worker about how this one person acted like we were racist just because we weren't super nice to her all the time. I remember saying, "I personally can't stand her. Not because she's black, I don't like her because she's a massive b*tch. It has nothing to do with her skin colour." (Just so you know I don't even like saying the word 'black' when referring to someone, but it just makes the story simpler.)

(This was quite a while ago, I'd had a very bad day, and a horrible encounter with said co-workers. Who openly flaunted her skin colour and how unfair the work place was for her because of it. Which was a load of bull, but that's another story..)

11.) What did you think about Minny's pie for Miss Hilly?
Would you have gone as far as Minny did for revenge?

That pie.. is so Minny. I wouldn't if I was me. But in Minny shoes, given the time, the way she was treated, her home life, getting pushed around, pushed around, she was well in her right for some revenge, if you're into revenge.
It's even sweeter because Hilly couldn't tell anyone or do much about it. Minny was actually very clever, given the fact she may not have even put her sh*t in there. All she had to do was say she did and the idea was planted, Hilly figured in how she treated Minny, and never doubted she might get hers.

What do you guys think? Although I doubt anyone will answers ALL of those questions. Pick one or even a response of mine and let me know what you think!

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