Book Trailer For Madam President

Monday, September 26, 2011

Would One Narrator Have Worked for The Help?

Finished The Help. Good book. Very interesting and enjoyable take on the 1960's South as all hell is breaking lose. The verisimilitude of the novel is very good and I like the way the author wove in the events of the time, JFK assassination, Medgar Evers killing, the advent of air conditioning, television shows. Very good. And of course the maids views points gave the story it's hook and really it's reason for being. It's what it was all about right?

So here is my question. Why the multiple narrators? Why not stick with Abileen who opens the novel instead of cutting away to everyone else? Minny is a strong narrator but she is too prejudiced in her views. Skeeter, our alternate protagonist does not have the voice. It is a failure of the novel that the main white character, our character, whom we are in sympathy with is probably the weakest. Besides evolving into a writer and leaving the South for NY at the end, she just doesn't really catch fire.

But Abileen, she is a character and it is her book. It is fitting she should have the first chapter and the last chapter. She is the voice heart and soul of the book and it is curious that the author should use multiple narrators when all it did was distract us and take away from the power of the novel. Multiple narrators are used for great effect when other viewpoints are essential but this is not the case in The Help. I would argue the power is diluted by not seeing it though Abileens eyes.

We could experience all the bigotry and cruelty of the ladies of Mississippi through Abileen. She could give us every blow by blow and she would pull the loose ends together. Put her against the Skeeter story of her failed relationship with the Senators son and her dying mother and her struggles to become who she is. This could all still be achieved with Abileen by having Skeeter tell her about it when they get together. The author has power in Abilbeen and Minny, but the other characters are weak and a bit stereotypical.

But all in all a good novel from a viewpoint we don't ofter hear. I just wanted to hear more of it.

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Books by William Hazelgrove