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G U I D E

A TEACHERS GUIDE TO

THE HELP
BY KATHRYN STOCKETT
T E A C H E RS

BY JEANNE M. MCGLINN

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2 A Teachers Guide to The Help by Kathryn Stockett

TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................3
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ..............................................................................................................3
OVERVIEW OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT .............................................................4
BEFORE READING .....................................................................................................................5
THEMES ........................................................................................................................................6
DURING READING ...................................................................................................................6
AFTER READING ACTIVITIES ...............................................................................................9
USING OTHER RESOURCES ................................................................................................ 12
ABOUT THE AUTHOR OF THIS GUIDE ........................................................................... 13
FREE TEACHERS GUIDES .................................................................................................... 15

Copyright 2012 by Penguin Group (USA)


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A Teachers Guide to The Help by Kathryn Stockett 3

INTRODUCTION
Told through the point of view of three dif- ence in their everyday lives, a close relation-
ferent women living in Jackson, Mississippi, ship develops between Skeeter, Aibileen, and
The Help chronicles events from late summer Minny. The three women come to confront
of 1962 through 1964. Skeeter Phelan, who and resist the intimidation experienced daily
has just graduated from Ole Miss, returns by the black maids. Woven throughout the
home to the family plantation, ambitious to stories are the key events of these seminal
become a writer. Taking the advice of a New years of the civil rights movement.
York editor to hone her skills, Skeeter begins Dealing as it does with the social issues of the
to write a column for the local newspaper time, The Help may be controversial for stu-
while searching for a topic that she truly cares dents. It is through the agency of Skeeter
about. Missing her beloved childhood family Phelan, a white woman, that the black maids
maid and confronted by the overt racism of get to tell their stories and as such it continues
her friend Hilly Holbrooks campaign to the tradition of novels like To Kill a Mocking-
require a separate bathroom for the black bird. There is the issue of language; all the
help, Skeeter proposes to write about the lives maids use a version of black dialect created by
of the black maids in Jackson. Knowing she the author, although their southern white
will need to interview black maids to tell their employers mainly use Standard English. Also,
stories but without realizing the danger of the focus on domestic injustices faced by the
what she is asking, Skeeter approaches Aibi- maids in the novel may come across as avoiding
leen, the maid of one of her close friends. the real brutality faced by blacks during this
With an increasing sense of bitterness at the time period in Mississippi. Teachers can help
injustice of her situation, Aibileen agrees to students confront these issues by posing some
help, and later recruits Minny and eventually of the questions provided in this guide. After
other maids. As they work on this project to they have read the novel, students will have
tell their true stories, including stories of the opportunities to evaluate the impact of the
prejudice and injustice that the maids experi- novel through suggested follow-up activities.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Kathryn Stockett was born and raised in Have students share their reactions to the
Jackson, Mississippi, the setting of this, her essay or interview in a dialogue journal,
first novel. In a brief essay at the end of the addressing these questions: What experiences
novel, Too Little, Too Late, Stockett led the author to write this novel? What does
describes her own relationship with a black the author state is the reason that she has
maid, Demetrie, who at 28 came to work for written this book? Based on this statement of
Stocketts family and helped to raise her. purpose what do you think this novel will
Stockett also describes her conflict about reveal about being a black maid in Missis-
trying to write the stories of black women. sippi? After students have written their
responses, ask them to exchange journals to
Ask students to read a section of Stocketts
read and react to the comments of another
essay on pp. 529-530. Also, Time Entertain-
student. When journals are returned, ask
ment offers an interview with Stockett about
students to write a response to their peers
writing the novel at http://www.time.com/
comments. Follow up with a class discussion
time/arts/article/0,8599,1937562,00.html.
to see if students have common expectations
and how they react to these ideas.

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4 A Teachers Guide to The Help by Kathryn Stockett

OVERVIEW OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT


1. For an overview of the Civil Rights Contemporary References:
Movement, ask students to check out the
John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy
brief histories provided at the following
Onassis (p. 7, p. 231, p. 403), Rosa Parks
web sites:
(p. 15, 79), James Meredith and Ole Miss
h t t p : / / w w w. i n f o p l e a s e . c o m / s p o t / (p. 97), Ralph Ellisons Invisible Man
civilrightstimeline1.html#events-1960 (p. 99), Martin Luther King and the
offers a timeline of events. Students can March on Washington (p. 185, p. 245,
focus on the early sixties, the time covered p. 347), Medgar Evers (p. 191, p. 228),
in the novel. Jim Crow Laws (p. 202), Governor Ross
http://www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhis- Barnett (p. 212, p.218), KKK (p. 228),
tory/civilrights-55-65/index.html gives NAACP (p. 228), the Space Age (p. 230),
an overview of events from the Mont- Birmingham bombing (p. 347)
gomery Bus Boycott to the march on Music: Stevie Wonder (p. 25) and Motown
Selma. There is also a section specifically Music, Blues (p. 25-26), Patsy Cline (p. 63),
on the events occurring in Mississippi Bessie Smith (p. 78), the Beatles (Love
during the Freedom Summer, including Me Do, p. 208), Bob Dylan (p. 415).
the death of Medgar Evers.
4. The teacher should carefully assess the
Following their review of events, ask stu- maturity and critical thinking skills of stu-
dents to write a letter to another student, dents before engaging in this activity which
describing some of the key events of the graphically displays the violence under
civil rights era and their reactions. Then which blacks lived during the Jim Crow era
have students deliver the letter and have in the United States. Before viewing the
the recipient write a brief response after photo of a lynching available at the following
reading the letter. site, http://hunniebrown.wordpress.com/
2. Show students sections of episode 5 from lynching-in-america/ ask students to brain-
Eyes on the Prize: Mississippi: Is This storm what they know about conditions
America 1962-1964: http://www.youtube. for blacks in the period following WWII.
com/watch?v=zr6QDGpihaE&feature= Teachers may wish to address the follow-
related ing topics to help students add to their
Ask students to make a concept map about background knowledge: Where did most
the conditions for blacks living in Missis- blacks live? What was the Second Great
sippi in the sixties after viewing the film. Migration that occurred between 1940-
1970? Why did blacks move to the North
3. In addition to the background of the civil in such numbers? What kinds of work
rights movement, the novel is filled with were typical for blacks in the South? Why?
references to contemporary events. What were the Jim Crow laws? How did
Assign students in pairs to research on the this affect the daily lives of blacks, espe-
web one of the topics listed below, col- cially in the South? What violence or
lecting a series of images that best reflect threat of violence affected blacks? What
the subject. Then two pairs can join was the black response? How did blacks
together to combine their images to make resist the violence of racism?
a 30-second video slide show with music
and text. Have students go to http:// After looking at the photo, ask students to
animoto.com/, click on the Get Started respond in journal format to what they have
link and then follow the prompts. viewed. If some students find it too difficult
Encourage students to select music from to respond, you may instead ask them to
the time period to go with their slides. add details to their earlier brainstorm.

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A Teachers Guide to The Help by Kathryn Stockett 5

5. Provide students with copies of Bob Dylans Dylan wrote this song about the assassi-
song Only a Pawn in Their Game avail- nation of Medgar Evers. It was released in
able at http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/ 1964 on Dylans The Times They Are
bobdylan/onlyapawnintheirgame.html a-Changin album and he sang the song at
or have students watch Dylans perfor- the 1963 March on Washington. Discuss
mance on YouTube http://www.youtube. with students: What is Dylans point of
com/watch?v=McbSrw4GnRI view about Evers killer? What ways of
thinking reinforce racism?

BEFORE READING
1. Characters in the novel are well aware of trouble because you desperately need the
rules governing black/white interac- job to pay your bills, and work opportu-
tions and the lines that divide the races nities are very scarce in your community.
in the South of the sixties. Ask students
Ask students to write about how they
to consider if they are aware of lines
would feel and what they would do if
that divide students today by construct-
confronted by this situation. After stu-
ing a personal sociogram, a visual diagram
dents have written their journals, ask
of their social relationships. Who do they
them to share with one another. Then as
interact with the most? Who would they
a class, discuss is separate but equal a
like to interact with?
just policy? What is the result of this
After students have constructed their policy? What is the impact on individuals
diagrams, ask them to free write about who are subject to this policy?
their relationships, using the following
3. Ask students to rate their response to the
questions: Why are they so close to cer-
following Anticipation Guide statements,
tain individuals; what prevents them
strongly agree, agree somewhat, disagree
from interacting with certain persons?
somewhat, strongly disagree.
What factors create barriers between
people? Do lines really exist between a. People who hire other people to work
people, or are they just made up? Then for them should maintain a profes-
discuss these questions as a whole group sional distance from the worker.
to identify the factors that cause the b. Being a personal servant or maid is a
lines that exist among their peers and respectable calling.
the reasons for these lines.
c. There are certain rules that people
2. Legislators of the South were quick to should learn and follow when dealing
point out that the laws of segregation with people of a different social or
were based on the principle of separate economic class than their own.
but equal. Ask students to consider this
concept by journaling about the follow- d. People of different races are so differ-
ing problem situation: ent from each other that they should
stick with their own kind socially.
You are working in a fast food restaurant
and you feel that your supervisor is preju- e. Telling or writing stories can be a way
diced against you. He gangs up with two of personal expression and freedom.
of the other employees and tells you that f. Telling or writing stories can be a way
the staff bathroom is now off limits to of changing society.
you and that you must use the public
Then ask students to write about the
restroom which is across the building and
statement that they reacted to most
frequently crowded. You dont want any
strongly. Discuss as a class: What state-

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6 A Teachers Guide to The Help by Kathryn Stockett

ments did you agree with most strongly? Students can come back to the Anticipation
Why? What statements did you disagree Guide after finishing the novel and go
with strongly? Why? through a similar process to discuss
whether their ideas have changed and why.

THEMES
Students may explore the following themes Introduce students to this list of themes and
while reading the novel: make sure that they understand what each
theme means. Ask students to note particular
Impact of racism on those who are preju-
themes in their reading journals or on post-it
diced as well as the victims of prejudice
notes as they read the novel. After students
Social pressures/conformity have read several chapters, ask them to review
Coming of age their journal or post-it notes to identify what
Searching for truth through writing/the they consider the main theme of this particu-
power of the written word lar section of the novel. List the theme(s) on
a large chart and brainstorm the authors pos-
Growth of a writer/finding ones voice
sible meanings. Ask students: What is hap-
Power relationships among people pening? Why is it important or significant?
Mans inhumanity towards man What does it mean? What is the author
Ambiguity of love/hate relationships saying about this theme?

DURING READING

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS AND 2. How does the colored part a town


READER RESPONSE QUOTES (p.15) differ from the rest of Jackson,
Mississippi? What are some of the forces
You can use the following questions to engage that contribute to the segregation that
students in thinking about the characters, the arises in cities?
plot, and the themes of the novel. Discussion 3. Minny hints to Aibileen that she has
questions generally build on students literal gotten even with Hilly for claiming that
recall of the plot to build up inferences about Minny is a thief. Why would such slander
what these events mean. As they discuss the be especially harmful to someone work-
questions, encourage students to go back to the ing as a maid?
text to identify and analyze key passages that
add to their understanding of the overall mean- 4. What deepens Aibileens bitterness toward
ing of the novel. Selected quotes from the novel white society?
can be used for open-ended reader response 5. What is it about Miss Celias background
writing. Students can use the quotes provided that makes her different from the other
by the teacher or choose their own quotes as club women, and why do you think she
they read, explaining the meaning of the quote wants to be accepted by them so badly?
and its significance in reading journals.
6. What do the rules for working for a white
lady that Minny learned from her mother
Chapters 1-6: Searching for an Idea say about the relations between maids
and their white employers?
1. Aibileen says: But it werent too long
before I seen something in me had changed. 7. What are some of the rules that Skeeter
A bitter seed was planted inside a me (p. gets from her mother, and what do these
3). What was the cause of her bitterness? say about the kind of behavior considered

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A Teachers Guide to The Help by Kathryn Stockett 7

proper for young white women of the time? wich for Johnny Foote? Do you think
Why do you think Skeeter and her mother this depiction is authentic to a black
have different attitudes about these rules? maids experience? Why or why not?
8. In what ways has Constantine helped 6. How are the Jim Crow Laws that Skeeter
Skeeter to grow up? How has Constantine discovers in the library similar to Hillys
taught Skeeter kindness and self respect? bathroom plan?
9. How has Aibileen helped Skeeter get the 7. Does the vindictiveness of white women
idea for her book? for violations of racial lines differ from the
violence of white men? How and to what
Reader Response Quotes degree are they the same or different?
All these houses theyre building without
8. Why was prayer considered by some in
maids quarters? Its just plain dangerous.
the black community to be counterpro-
Everybody knows they carry different kinds
ductive to the civil rights struggle?
of diseases than we do (p. 10).
9. What are some of the ways that Minny
Do you ever wish you couldchange
shows that she cares about Miss Celia,
things? she asks. And I cant help myself. I
even though she complains about her?
look at her head-on. Cause thats one a the
stupidest questions I ever heard (p. 12). 10. In reference to the book to which she is
contributing her story, Minny says,
I say what I know she want to hear: I use
its a sorry fact that its a white
my colored bathroom from now on. And
woman doing this (p. 255). What are
then I go on and Clorox the white bathroom
some of the issues raised by the fact that
again real good (p. 34).
a white woman is the editor and a con-
Good morning, Minny! Its real good to see tributor to a book about the experiences
you, she says, and I bristle, hearing a white of black maids?
lady being so friendly (p. 48).
11. How does the existence of racial hatred
Mother wouldnt want me to know this, and violence in her world affect Skeeter?
that Constantines father was white, that hed
12. Gretchen accuses Skeeter of being
apologized to her for the way things were. It
Another white lady trying to make a
was something I wasnt supposed to know. I
dollar off of colored people (p. 304). Is
felt like Constantine had given me a gift (p. 78).
this what Skeeter is trying to do? If not,
what is motivating her to collect and
Chapters 7-28: Writing the Stories publish the maids stories? Is it personal
ambition or something more worthy?
1. How does Aibileen try to counteract the
negative effects of Elizabeths criticism 13. How has Skeeters life become duplici-
and coldness to Mae Mobley? tous? Is society only to blame for her
dilemma, or could she have been more
2. How does Aibileen see racial prejudice being forthright once she realized the injustice
passed down from parents to children? experienced by the maids?
3. Why does Aibileen say thank you to 14. Skeeter asks her boyfriend Stuart if the
Hilly for the outside toilet when she feels civil rights activist that Stuarts ex-girl-
so demeaned by it? friend cheated with was colored. She
4. Why does the opportunity to tell the feels that, even to her, that would be
truth about working for white people horrific, disastrous (p. 321). What do
weigh so heavily on Minny? these feelings reveal about Skeeter, even
as she realizes the racism of her society?
5. Why does Minny feel the satisfaction
that she does in preparing a BLT sand-

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8 A Teachers Guide to The Help by Kathryn Stockett

15. Does Skeeter serve Hilly right when she Reader Response Quotes
causes old toilets to be dumped on Hillys They raise a white child and then twenty
lawn? Why do you think this action is years later the child becomes the employer.
appropriate or inappropriate? Its that irony, that we love them and they
16. Although Minny is very strong in some love us, yet.We dont even allow them to
ways, she submits to physical abuse from use the toilet in the house (p. 123).
her husband. What are possible reasons I come home that morning, after I been
why she takes this abuse and does not fired, and stood outside my house with my
stand up to him? new work shoes on. The shoes my mama paid
17. What does the incident with the prowler a months worth a light bill for. I guess thats
who harasses Minny and Celia reveal about when I understood what shame was and the
the personalities of these two women? color of it too (p. 175-176).
18. When Minny complains to Aibileen that Separate but equal, Miss Hilly say back to
Celia her white employer does not see the Miss Leefolt. Thats what Governor Ross
lines that separate different classes and Barnett says is right, and you cant argue with
races of people, Aibileen tells her that she the government (p. 218).
is talking about something that dont Things aint never gone change in this town,
exist (p. 367). How does Minny subse- Aibileen. We living in hell, we trapped. Our
quently apply Aibileens words in her kids is trapped (p. 230).
dealings with Celia?
Yall think prayers going to keep white
19. The print in Chapter 25 The Benefit is people from killing us? (p. 246).
bordered by vertical lines on both sides.
What is different about the narration of She stops crying and I dont have any good
this chapter that sets it off from the rest things left to say. For a minute, were just two
of the novel? people wondering why things are the way
they are (p. 276).
20. What is ironic about the proceeds from
the Benefit going to the Poor Starving Theyd killed Carl Roberts for speaking out,
Children of Africa (p. 377)? for talking. I think about how easy I thought
it would be, three months ago, to get a dozen
21. Why is it that Celias appearance makes maids to talk to me.How stupid Id been
such an impact on the guests at the Benefit? (p. 282).
22. Why does Minny risk her job and explain There is undisguised hate for white women,
to Celia the story behind Hilly and the there is inexplicable love (p. 303).
chocolate pie? Is Minny justified in doing
the terrible awful thing to get even with But the dichotomy of love and disdain
Hilly for lying about her? How does this act living side-by-side is what surprises me. Most
reflect the power relations between the two are invited to attend the white childrens
people? How does it compare to Skeeters weddings, but only if theyre in their uni-
having the toilets sent to Hillys lawn? forms (p. 304).
23. What does Celias chopping down the Now I know what I did wasnt Christian.
mimosa tree outside her kitchen window But what kind a person send her own mama
signify? to the home to take up with strangers? Theys
something bout doing wrong to that woman
24. Aibileen tells Skeeter that if they are found that makes it just seem right (p. 397).
out to be the authors of the book, they
would be beaten with baseball bats. Is this A lot of colored womens got to give they chil-
fear extreme? What evidence of white vio- dren up, Miss Skeeter. Send they kids off cause
lence to blacks do you find in the novel? they have to tend to a white family (p. 421).

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A Teachers Guide to The Help by Kathryn Stockett 9

Chapters 28-34: Aftermath Reader Response Quotes


They say its like true love, good help. You
1. How does Skeeters mother plan to con-
only get one in a lifetime (p. 437).
tinue controlling Skeeter even after her
death? What does this show about her? Minny doesnt look worried about book
sales. She looks worried about what will
2. Why does Stuart withdraw his proposal
happen when the women of Jackson read
of marriage to Skeeter? Why is he unable
what weve written about them (p. 455).
to appreciate what Skeeter has done?
Point is, we got to watch what get up in
3. How does Skeeter look and dress differ-
these kids heads. Ever week, she still get her
ently as the events of the novel unfold?
Aibileen lesson, her secret story (p. 460).
What does this suggest about changes in
the way she thinks? Then the Reverend hands me a box,
wrapped in white paper, tied with light blue
4. What is the significance of so many
ribbon, same colors as the book. He lays his
people signing the book that Reverend
hand on it as a blessing. This one, this is for
Johnson gives to Aibileen?
the white lady. You tell her we love her, like
5. Why is Skeeter so eager to get out of shes our own family (pp. 467-468).
Mississippi?
So I lean my hand on the sideboard because
6. After realizing the desperation felt by the babys getting heavy on me. And I wonder
Lou Anne, Skeeter reflects that the point how it is that I have so much when she
of the book was: For women to realize, doesnt have any. Hes crying. Shes crying.
We are just two people. Not that much sepa- We are three fools in the dining room crying
rates us. Not nearly as much as Id thought (p. 476).
(p. 492). In what way is this theme
How can I love a man who beats me raw?
revealed in the book edited by Skeeter?
Why do I love a fool drinker? One time I
7. How is Aibileens teaching Mae Mobley asked him, Why? Why are you hitting me?
not to be prejudiced shown in Mae He leaned down and looked me right in the
Mobleys actions? face. If I didnt hit you, Minny, who knows
8. How has Aibileen changed through the what you become (p. 485).
events in the novel and the publication of I think about Yule May setting in jail. Cause
the book? Miss Hilly, she in her own jail, but with a
9. How does the publication of the book lifelong term (p. 522).
lead to Minnys freeing herself from her
abusive husband?

AFTER READING ACTIVITIES


Discussion activities, thematic explorations, starts by writing prayers in her journal (p.
and creative exercises after reading the novel 26, p. 175) and then writes down her
are designed to get students to re-read and story in her words to share with Skeeter
think critically about their initial reactions. when they start the first interviews (pp.
Some of these activities can be done with a 174-179). Imagine that Aibileen writes
partner or in a small reading circle. Again about one of the significant scenes in the
teachers should choose the activities that best novel, such as: Mae Mobley using the
meet their goals for students. black bathroom (pp. 110-111); the night
Medgar Evers is assassinated (pp. 226-
1. Aibileen, like Skeeter, finds her voice as a
231); the special church meeting at which
writer during the events of the novel. She
she is celebrated by the black community

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10 A Teachers Guide to The Help by Kathryn Stockett

(pp. 466-468); or the day that she is Have students share the list of ideas they
accused of stealing and she leaves her job compiled while reading the reviews and
as a maid for Miss Leefolt (pp. 516-522). discuss their reactions to the views
Have students reread one of the scenes expressed by the writers. Then ask them
and then write the brief journal entry to write their own review of the novel
that Aibileen might have written in her describing what they found personally
prayer-notebook. interesting and worthy of note and what
they found controversial in the novel.
2. Various critics have reviewed and com-
mented on the novel. Students can do 3. Ask students to consider the main focus
research at the following web sites, jot- of the novel. Is Stockett telling the maids
ting down key ideas as they read: stories or is she telling the story of a white
woman coming of age in the South or
This web site has links to a range of both? Ask students to journal write their
opinions on the novel: http://www. response to this question and then engage
huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/05/ in a classroom discussion about their
the-help-kathryn-stockett_n_ overall understanding of the novel.
346016.html
4. The novel illustrates the power of story to
This statement from the Association tell the truth and to change the way
of Black Women Historians about people think. Review the times that
the depiction of Black women in The Aibileen tells Mae Mobley a secret
Help addresses the dialect the author story, for example, pp. 234-235, 348-
created for the black women: http:// 350, 460. What is Aibileens goal in tell-
w w w. a b w h . o r g / i m a g e s / p d f / ing these stories? Why do they have to be
TheHelp-Statement.pdf secret? What is the effect of the stories
This review suggests that The Help is on Mae Mobley?
the new To Kill a Mockingbird: Ask students to think about the maids
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ stories. Why is it important that they tell
jesse-kornbluth/is-the-help-more- these stories? What do they hope to
than-a-s_b_333448.html accomplish? Are the students aware of
This New York Times review identifies any stories that need to be told today?
some of the potential controversy Make a list of these stories with the class.
surrounding the novel but also recog- As a creative exercise, ask students to take
nizes its accomplishments: http:// one of the topics they have identified and
www.nytimes.com/2009/02/19/ write a simple and short story, using
books/19masl.html Aibileens stories as a model. Share these
stories in small groups.
The Help is praised for its artistry and
depiction of the time period: http:// 5. Have students redesign the book cover
www.seattlepi.com/lifestyle/blogcritics for The Help. First have them analyze the
/article/Book-Review-The-Help-by- current book covers design. How is it laid
Kathryn-Stockett-2266684.php out? What does it communicate? What
does the illustration of the three birds
The Washington Post reviewer praises suggest? Then have them identify a cen-
Stocketts ability to create African tral theme of the novel and design a book
American vernacular: http://www. cover that illustrates and communicates
washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/ that theme, for example the theme of the
article/2009/03/31/AR2009033103552 impact of racism on those who are preju-
.html diced as well as the victims of prejudice.

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A Teachers Guide to The Help by Kathryn Stockett 11

6. Ask students to outline the coming of age The Jim Crow Museum of Racist
of Skeeter by gathering quotes that show Memorabilia at Ferris State University:
the three stages of this process: 1. Inexpe- http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/
rience, innocence, or lack of knowledge;
The Stereotype of the Mammy
2. Confrontations or trials that affect ones
h t t p : / / w w w. y o u t u b e . c o m /
views; and 3. Growth, new maturity, and
watch?v=3ybT1xIYgPk
an enlarged concept of right and wrong.
Students can organize their quotes in a Time to Move Beyond the Mammy
graphic organizer on a large sheet of Stereotype: http://www.npr.org/
poster paper and then share with the class t e m p l a t e s / s t o r y / s t o r y.
why they choose the various quotes to php?storyId=5437127
reflect Skeeters coming of age. Then ask students to argue whether
7. Students can re-envision the novel by Stocketts depiction of the black maids
choosing a dramatic scene and retelling it evokes the Mammy figure or does it pres-
with their point of view. For example, a ent the lives of these women in an origi-
student might choose the meeting nal way? Ask students to draw examples
between Celia and Hilly at the Benefit. from the novel to support their position.
How might the scene develop and con- 10. Ask students to explore how The Help
clude differently? Have the students depicts the violence of racism. First have
rewrite the scene they have chosen and them watch several scenes from the film,
share in small groups. Students work can Mississippi Burning, available on You-
be posted on a bulletin board or pub- Tube. This film released in 1988 was
lished in a class booklet for all to share. directed by Alan Parker and stars Willem
8. What is the impact of racism on those Dafoe and Gene Hackman as two FBI
who believe in this ideology? Ask stu- agents. The film is loosely based on the
dents to identify passages in the novel FBI investigation into the deaths of three
that show how the employers are affected civil rights workers in Mississippi in
by their attitudes to their maids. Discuss 1964.
with students or ask them to write an In this scene the two FBI agents discuss the
essay in which they discuss the following sources of racist attitudes: http://www.
questions: What are the assumptions youtube.com/watch?v=UlzaBi_QxPw
about blacks that control the behavior of
the white employers? What are the rules Students can also investigate the Missis-
that the white employers follow? What is sippi Burning case of the summer of
the impact of their assumptions and 1964 at these sites: http://crime.about.
behaviors on their lives? com/od/history/p/ms_burn.htm and
http://www.core-online.org/History/
9. Some critics have suggested that African mississippi_burning.htm
American maids or servants depicted in
novels and films resurrect the Mammy fig- Then have students identify passages in
urea mythical stereotype of black women The Help which describe racist attitudes
who were compelled, either by slavery or and their accompanying violence. Dis-
segregation, to serve white families. cuss: What is the main type of violence
depicted in The Help?
Ask students to research the Mammy
figure at several web sites, such as

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12 A Teachers Guide to The Help by Kathryn Stockett

USING OTHER RESOURCES

THE FILM small groups the choices they made to


represent the action in the scene.
The film of The Help was released in 2011.
3. If you decide to view the whole film with
The screenplay was written by Tate Taylor
the class, you can ask students to keep a
who also directed the film, based on Stock-
list of significant changes they see
etts novel. Trailers from the film are available
between the novel and the film. You
at several web sites, like the following: http://
might choose to stop the film at several
www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_ajv_6pUnI
points, to discuss what the students have
and http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/461233/
noted. Look especially at the scene in the
The-Help/trailers
film where the Footes serve Minny
1. Select several key scenes from the film to dinner or Skeeters confrontation with
view with students. First ask students to her mother. Discuss: Do the changes
reread the section of the novel in which from the novel improve the story? Why
the scene occurs. Ask students to visual- or why not? What is the screen writers
ize the action through a quick sketch or purpose in making changes to the novel?
journal writing. Then view the scene
4. After viewing the film, ask students to
together. Discuss the choices made by the
write a review. Christopher P. Jacobs in
director. Where did they agree with the
an essay available online, explains that
directors visualization of the scene?
readers want more than a simple opinion
What might they do differently and why?
in a film review: http://und.edu/instruct/
Do any of the changes substantially affect
c j a c o b s / Pa p e r Gu i d e l i n e s 3 . h t m
the ideas of the novel?
Readers want to know about the film-
2. A storyboard shows the action of a story makers intentions and how well they
scene by scene. For more information on succeeded in making those intentions
story boards, you can direct students to clear to viewers.
this web site: http://accad.osu.edu/
Students can look at samples of film
womenandtech/Stor yboard%20
reviews of The Help at several sites before
Resource/
writing their own review of the film:
Ask students to choose a key scene from http://movies.nytimes.com/
the novel and prepare a series of sketches movie/461233/The-Help/overview and
of the action during this scene. Students http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/
can display their storyboards and share in oct/27/the-help-film-review.

RELATED BOOKS
1. Ida E. Jones, from the Association of Ask students to select one of these
Black Women Historians, offers a list of resources to read and review, concentrat-
resources that can provide insight into ing on the depiction of life in the South
the lives of black people combating sys- during the twentieth century and particu-
tematic racism. The list of fiction and larly the era of the civil rights movement.
nonfiction works is available at http:// Students could turn their information
www.abwh.org/images/pdf/TheHelp- into a creative format: a newscast, an
Statement.pdf interview, a creative dramatization.

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A Teachers Guide to The Help by Kathryn Stockett 13

2. As a research project for advanced students, descriptions of literature circle roles can
ask them to select one of the following be found in Harvey Daniels Literature
novels written by black authors which Circles: Voice and Choice in the Student-
depict the lives of African Americans: Centered Classroom, 2nd edition, Sten-
house, 2002.) During their discussions,
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
ask students to identify and collect key
Black Boy, Richard Wright passages that portray the lives of blacks,
Their Eyes Were Watching God, especially their encounters with whites
Zora Neale Hurston and the rules that are applied to their
daily lives. At the completion of the lit-
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, erature circle, ask each group to create an
Maya Angelou oral presentation on their findings. Then
Organize students into literature circles discuss as a whole class the realities of
with set roles for each student, such as black lives as depicted in these novels and
discussion director, quote collector, illus- as compared to The Help.
trator, travel tracer, connector (Detailed

ABOUT THE AUTHOR OF THIS GUIDE


JEANNE M. McGLINN, Professor in the She has written and edited a series of guides
Department of Education at the University of to classical and contemporary works of litera-
North Carolina at Asheville, teaches Chil- ture published by Penguin. She also writes
drens and Adolescent Literature and directs extensively in the field of adolescent literature,
the field experiences of 9-12 English licensure including a critical book on the historical fic-
candidates. She is the editor of the Language tion of adolescent writer Ann Rinaldi for
Experience Forum Journal for the Language Scarecrow Press Young Adult Writers series.
Experience Special Interest Group of IRA.

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14 A Teachers Guide to The Help by Kathryn Stockett

NOTES

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A Teachers Guide to The Help by Kathryn Stockett 15

FREE TEACHERS GUIDES

G U I D E

D E
A TEACHERS GUIDE
TO THE SIGNET
CLASSICS EDITIO

THE IMPORT
N OF

OF BEING EA ANCE

G U I D E
D E

TION OF A TEACHE

AND OTHE RNEST


EDI RS GUI
CLASSICS

G U I
NET DE TO THE
THE SIG
SIR G
SIGNET

BY OSCAR WIL R PL AY S
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THE GRAWAIN AND


RS GUI TO EDITION
A TEACHE A TEACHERS GUIDE OF

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TEACHERS GUIDES
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