Set in 1960s Jackson, Mississipi, the screen version of Kathryn Stocketts novel The Help reveals a dramatic picture of social and personal conflicts in front of the spectators eyes. All the female main characters display some kind of intrapersonal challenge as well as find it difficult to interact with each other. Given the social context and the characters personal history the plot of The Help can serve as a universal communication conflicts guide for any kind of audience. With help of Charlottes struggle with herself, Minnie and Hillys hostile confrontation and Skeeters seditious deprecation of social foundations of the time, the movie reaches every persons heart and mind.
One of the most significant intrapersonal conflicts shown in the movie is Charlottes battle with the collective identity of the Daughters of America during the dinner party at her house. Her old maid Constantines daughter Rachel comes to visit her mother during the party and is made to go through the back door. While Rachel is insulted and defiant, Charlotte is torn between the fear of exposure of her friendly relationship with Constantine and her daughter, the desire to keep her face in the eyes of conservative Daughters and her attachment to the maid who has worked for 29 years in her family and practically raised her daughter Eugenia. Charlotte finally makes her choice and requests both of the black ladies to leave against her true hearts desire. Charlotte never has the chance to make it up to Constantine as the old woman dies after the incident. Another intrapersonal conflict is that of Eugenia (Skeeter) who finds it difficult to meet her mothers expectations of getting married and have children as all the girls should. Skeeter demonstrates passive resistance about dating guys as she dreams about becoming a journalist. During her initial stage of acquaintance with Stewart she does not tolerate his insulting remarks and improper behavior and leaves the restaurant although he is her almost only chance for marriage in small provincial Jackson.
A range of interpersonal conflicts arise inside the group of old school friends Skeeter, Hilly and Elizabeth. When Skeeter comes back from college, a differentiating stage in her relationship with her school friends starts. Skeeter becomes aware that she has outgrown provincial town girls petty interests like gossip and talks about getting married. Moreover, Hillys and Elizabeths treatment of their maids Minny and Aibileen is shocking for Skeeter as an educated girl with modern ideas and generally sympathetic personality. At first Skeeter demonstrates sabotaging resistance when she does not place the announcement for Hillys charitable initiative in the magazine she works for. Finally, when the conflict escalates and Hilly makes and expressive assertion towards Skeeter to publish information about her initiative, Skeeter resorts to active rebellion and exposes Hilly to everybodys mockery by placing the announcement asking the townspeople to bring their old toilets to Hillys house.
Nevertheless, the most outstanding conflict of the movie plot is group-related and rooted in the economic model of relationship (10) in the American South notorious for its slavery history. The 1960s is the epoch when racism and prejudices against black people is still a common thing in the South. African-American rights activists are killed and most black maids have to live with the constant fear of attack. The white women employing black maids as help in their households exhibit an irrational and illogical behavior allowing black maids to raise their own white children but prohibiting them to use toilets in their houses. The group-related conflict breaks out between Hilly, the most prejudiced and intolerant of the girls and Minnie, her rebellious maid. Minnie neglects the ban for using the white peoples toilet during a heavy thunderstorm and uses I and You conflict messages with Hilly when she catches Minnie red-handed. Another example of Minnies self-destructive rebellion against Hilly and racism in general is her famous chocolate cake where she puts some of her excrement and lets Hilly know about it after she eats two pieces of the cake. Later Minnie makes Skeeter use this detail in the book Skeeter compiles collecting stories of the black maids in Jackson. It was another example of Minnies indirect communication with Hilly in revenge for leaving her jobless. Minnie is the reason for secondary group tension within the black maids gathering to write Skeeters book. Most maids are scared of Minnies rebellious behavior but she insists on including her inappropriate story in the book. Minnies story appears to be one of the main reasons the book is such a success.
Communication conflicts of The Help being historically and economically conditioned can be considered within the context of general human interaction of all times. Prejudices of some kinds will always exist and moral issued raised in the movie will always be worth analyzing. The messages of kindness to those are weaker, being a better person and making correct decisions sent by the movie to the audience can be reflected upon and lived up to in any sociocultural and geographic settings. Skeeter and Minnies brave protest against unfair attitude to black maids will always stay one of the most inspirational deeds in the history of social rights movement.
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- Annotated Bibliography: Human Development
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