This one’s been chasing me for a while. Sometimes, you badly want to write something, but you’re equally afraid that you won’t be able to express yourself. If I let myself get away with it, I’ll never write it. Not that it’s all that important, except to me. Which is all that matters, really, since it’s my blog. That doesn’t make starting any easier, though.
I went to see The Help, several days after I finished reading the book. If you’re looking for me to cover the controversial or historical aspects of it, you’re reading the wrong blog. These have been covered in numerous book and movie reviews, and I can’t better them. And bookworm or not, I’m not really a book reviewer, in the general sense. My reviews are usually of books that I absolutely adore, and what I remember is what I love about them. I don’t pick apart plot, protagonists, and antagonists. My memory is pretty lacking, when it comes to something that didn’t capture my attention, admiration, and imagination.
To put that in perspective, don’t expect me to give you the gist (or even the theme) of a sermon I just heard preached. If one keynote caught my attention, and held it, I’ll tell you that. Otherwise, I’ll just tell you it was good. Likewise, I can enjoy a book or movie, and not be interested enough or remember enough about specific details to give you the entire plot. But if I’ve been re-reading it since I was a child, because I absolutely love it, then I’ll give you chapter and verse about it. And do what you will, you may not be able to shut me up.
Explanations aside, that isn’t what I started out to write. Spoilers ahead, for book and movie, so if you don’t want to know what happens, then stop reading, right now.
I don’t remember which movie review I read, some time back, but there was a mention that they thought Skeeter’s romance with Stuart Whitworth felt a little out of place, not really helping the story along at all. I agree that they skimped a little, on the movie version, because they didn’t have the time for it, but I don’t agree that it was unnecessary to the story.
Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is a young woman that was raised to believe that she will never be good enough or beautiful enough for her mother. Thankfully, her closest friends love her despite these “shortcomings”. So, when she returns from college, she’s welcomed back into her circle of friends, with all their everlasting bridge clubs, and matchmaking plans for her.
But she’s living in the segregated Deep South, where white children are raised and loved by black maids (and the kids love them in return), but when the children grow up, they adopt the prejudices of their parents . Skeeter wants to be a writer, and in her journey towards seeing through the prejudice surrounding her, she takes steps that her friends will not accompany her on.
And she meets Stuart. The first nightmare date, he’s drunk, obnoxious, and pretty much a complete jerk. So, she forgets her nerves and tells him what she really thinks of him. You’d think that would be the end of it, but he eventually comes to apologize, knowing that his behavior can’t be excused, but yes, he can apologize.
Because there’s more to Stuart than you think, as he was planning to marry the girl he’d been dating since his teens… when she cheated on him. Absolutely crushed by this betrayal, he wasn’t ready for that date, but he was badgered into it, by Skeeter’s friend Hilly. No, I’m not excusing his behavior, just explaining.
Now that they’ve had that nightmare date, Skeeter can’t go back to being nervous around him. She continues to tell him exactly what she thinks, and finds that he appreciates that. And he asks her to give him another chance. Which she finally agrees to.
In the end, the two of them move beyond their disaster date, and she finds someone who encourages her to write what she wants to write, not what others expect. He thinks she’s beautiful and original, though in the book, he eventually has to go west and get some closure with that other girl. He’s also the son of a Senator, so Skeeter gives him a look into life outside the world of being a politician’s son.
Meanwhile, Skeeter finishes her book, and gets it published. Her viewpoint on everyone in town has changed, as she knows how they treat their maids. Because of a few things before the book, she’s lost her position in the clubs, and she eventually loses Hilly’s friendship. Hilly’s belief in the need for separation between blacks and whites trumps everything, including lifelong friendships.
And then, Stuart proposes to Skeeter. He loves her originality, finds that he’s never met a girl quite like her, and he thinks she’s beautiful. For the first time, Skeeter finds that a young man loves her, while she’s been raised to believe that this will probably never happen. For any girl, it is a thrill to find yourself loved. Skeeter would be no exception to this.
But there needs to be honesty on both sides, so Skeeter finally tells Stuart about the book. Right after he proposes. He is shocked and crushed… because he loves her, but that love isn’t enough to overcome his prejudices. He does not believe in what she did, thinks that things should remain as they are. And so, he leaves her.
Sure, the scene where she tells him (in the movie) and he yells at her, it’s a bit abrupt, but I still think it’s necessary. She was on a journey to see beyond the skin color of those around her. But on the way, she fell in love, and found that for some people, love isn’t enough. You have to have beliefs and interests in common. Not just interests in playing tennis or golf.
And in the end, she had to face what her choices had caused. She had lost friendships, lost her first love, and lost the comfort of living at home, being blind to the hypocrisy around her. But with these things were added to her experience in life, she could now wipe the slate clean, and go to New York City, knowing that there was nothing left for her in Mississippi.
After reading the book and seeing the movie, I’m afraid I empathize with the romance, and then feel for her, as her first love turns his back on her. He wanted to marry her. She was in love, too, but then he abandoned her because of prejudice… it could have completely crushed her. But she came out of it stronger than ever. And her own beliefs were strong enough that she wouldn’t give them up, even to get his love back. So, I tend to consider what she lost and what she gained from this whole endeavor. If only we all could have such principles, and stick to them, no matter what others say or do.