The Help By Kathryn Stockett

903 Words4 Pages
Much has been made of the 1950s culture in America. Many look back on it fondly as a time when family values held strong and people followed the ideal path laid out for them. Kathryn Stockett’s novel, The Help, pulls back the pretty curtain on southern life in that era, showing the grime and dust resting on the metaphoric window sill. While her story focuses mainly on the injustices of institutional racism in Jackson, Mississippi, it also sheds light on the stifling gender roles of the era. Both the novel and the film adaptation epitomize 1950s southern gender ideals and how they set expectations for women both in the home and outside of it. June Cleaver of Leave it to Beaver television fame set the impossible standard for women in the mid twentieth century. She cooked, cleaned, mothered, and submitted to her husband’s whims and wishes, all with grace, poise, and a smile. Cracks could be found in neither her dining room table nor the veneer of her polished life. The women of Stockett’s Jackson clearly held themselves to a similar standard, on the surface at least. First and foremost, a daughter of Jackson was expected to marry and marry well. Throughout the novel, Skeeter Phelan receives pressure from all sides to settle down and find a husband. Her return from university with a degree but not a man is seen as a failure, particularly when her lifelong friends Hilly and Elizabeth have both managed to marry and begin producing children. The film captures this tension

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