The help uses many rhetorical devices, but known more than colloquial language. Kathryn Stockett makes sure that each one of her characters sounds real. She doesn't just say, “she said it in a southern accent”, she writes it out so when you read it the words become a southern accent. The reader doesn't have to infer what it sounds like because it is written that way. Stockett’s use of colloquial language is continuous throughout the novel and varies as the characters change, for every few characters have distinct dialects or accents.
A few examples of Stockett’s use of colloquial language occur on page 520 of the Help:
“‘I look deep into her rich brown eyes and she look into mine. Law, she got old-soul eyes, like she done lived a thousand years. And I swear I see, down inside, the woman she gone grow up to be..and then she say it, just like I need her to. ‘You is kind,’ she say, “you is smart. You is important.’
‘Oh Law.’ I hug her hot little body to me. I fell like she done just given me a gift. ‘Thank you, Baby Girl.’” (Stockett 520 -521)
In this excerpt we see that when Aibileen is thinking, and even taking, she is not speaking English properly, but rather informally. It adds character to her, because in real life people who speak their language do not always speak it formally. We see in this excerpt that “you is kind” should actually be “you are kind”, but that is not the way Stockett wanted her character to speak.
Another aspect of rhetoric used in this excerpt is repetition. In this passage, Mae Mobley repeats the words “you is”, and the multiple use of the words adds emphasis. It shows the reader that this is something to be remembered, that it is something significant because has occurred more than once.
“ I head down the hot sidewalk at eight thirty in the morning wondering what I’m on do with the rest a my day. The rest of my life. I am shaking and crying and a white lady walk by frowning at me…the sun is bright but my eyes is wide open…” (Stockett 522)
I find this to be one of the most important images in the book; when Aibileen walks away from the Leefolt house. She’s lost so much at this point, and her conundrum about life hits her in this exact moment. She’s lost her job as a maid and knows she cannot get another, and the one Miss Skeeter prescribed won’t be enough money for her to live off of that long. Throughout her years she had always believed that she was too old to start over; that her life was done. But it is in this moment that Aibileen realizes that this is only the beginning. She thinks to herself, “Maybe I ain’t too old to start over… and I laugh and cry at the same time at this. Cause just last night I thought I was finished with everything new…”(Stockett 522) and this is so important to me, because there is nothing like realizing that you can always have a new beginning.
“I stop where I am and look at Miss Leefolt, but she staring at the funny L-shaped crack in her dining room.” (Stockett 516)
The L shaped crack in Miss Leefolt’s table is how Miss Hilly discovers that Aibileen was involved in the making of the Help book, and results in Aibileen losing her job. In my mind, the image of the crack is significant because it confirms to Hilly that the book takes place in Jackson, and changes Aibileen’s life by getting her fired. But had the L- shaped crack not been there, Aibileen would never have gotten the courage to stand up to Miss Hilly, and I think this is more important than her old job at Miss Leefolt’s. Not only that, but it helps Aibileen decide to take up Miss Skeeter’s offer to be Miss Myrna for the Jackson Journal. Using the L-shaped crack in the novel ultimately frees Aibileen to pursue more in her life than she thought she ever could.
“The man’s jaw goes sideways and blood bursts out of his mouth. He wobbles around, turns, and Miss Celia whacks the other side of his face too…is this really happening? Is a white woman really beating up a white man to save me?” (Stockett 363)
I find this imagery to be significant to the novel because it is when Minny realizes that you cannot simply judge all white people together because not everyone is the same. Minny never really took well to whites, but she gradually came to accept them as the book progressed, and in this moment specifically. When Miss Celia saves Minny from the white man who was about to hurt her, she was shocked. It is in this moment when Minny comes to respect Miss Celia because she didn’t care that Minny was black, she saved her because she knew she was a person; and in the end that’s all that truly matters.
I swallow back a mouthful a spit and stare at Minny’s wall paint that’s gone yellow with bacon grease, baby hands, Leroy’s Pall Malls. No pictures or calendars on Minny’s walls. I’m trying not to think. I don’t want a think about a colored man dying. It’ll make me remember Treelore.
Minny’s hands is in fists. She gritting her teeth. ‘Shot him in front a his children, Aibileen…Radio say his family run out the house when they heard the shots. Say he bloody, stumbling round, all the kids with blood all over em…’” (Stockett 229-230)
This imagery of Medgar Evers death is very significant to the novel because it represents how dangerous it was to be African- American during the 1960s. Medgar Evers was looked up to in Jackson, Mississippi, especially since he was highly regarded in the NAACP. He was a colored man fighting for change, fighting to be equal, but his brutal death terrified many people at that time. It made people believe that fighting for rights, or changing the norm, would ultimately put your life at an extreme risk. Evers death showed Aibileen and Minny how risky writing a book about working for white families actually was, and showed the readers how dangerous the situation could be. Even though the Help had previously discussed the danger of writing a book, it was brought to the surface with the death of Medgar Evers.
Miss Hilly: friend of Miss Skeeter and Miss Leefolt who attended Ole Miss but left to get married. She was in a long term relationship with a man named Mr Johnny but he left her for a woman named Miss Celia from a country town called Sugar Ditch. Miss Hilly is the main antagonist of the novel, being that she is extremely racist against blacks and is willing to lie and play dirty in order to get what she wants.
Miss Leefolt: friend of Miss Skeeter and Miss Hilly. She too attended Ole Miss but left in order to marry and have children. She constantly wants to impress people around her and is always trying to be regarded highly in other peoples eyes. She has a daughter named Mae Mobley, but Miss Leefolt does not give her the right motherly affection her child needs, especially since Mae is chubby and not cute. Later in the novel she will have a son, whom she treats better than her daughter. Aibileen, her maid, takes care of her children.
Constantine: Miss Skeeter's maid who took care of her and her brother when they were children. Constantine helps Eugenia deal with her differences because she too is a tall woman and makes sure Skeeter feels like she is important too. Constantine is mixed and has light brown eyes and dark skin. She has a daughter that comes out very pale, and Constantine ultimately gives her up to be adopted in the north.
Mrs. Phelan: Miss Skeeter's mother who struggles with the beginning stages of cancer. She wants nothing more than for her daughter to dress nicely and find a husband to marry and take care of her. She often argues with her daughter Skeeter, but the two love each other nevertheless.
Stuart Whitworth: Miss Skeeter's love interest and the son of the senator of Mississippi. The two's relationship becomes very complicated because he still has feelings for his old girlfriend who cheated on him, and he ultimately leaves Skeeter for it. He later comes back to be with her again, but Skeeter isn't so willing to rekindle the old flame. They later get back together and he helps her deal with her mother dying of cancer, and eventually proposes. But when he realizes that he doesn't know Eugenia as well as he thought, he calls off the engagement.
Miss Celia: a ditzy blonde woman who is married to Mr. Johnny. She wants nothing more but to be able to provide for Johnny and get pregnant, but she has many complications. She asks for help from Minny and hires her as a maid while she is pregnant. After having her fourth miscarriage, Miss Celia becomes extremely depressed and is only able to get better with the help of Minny. Miss Hilly and all of her friends are mean to Miss Celia because she married Mr. Johnny, and it makes it very hard for Celia to make friends. By the end of the novel Miss Celia accepts that Miss Hilly is a terrible person and goes on living her life happily with Mr. Johnny.