So my mom and I run a book club. We meet once a month and discuss the book the club has chosen. This month the book club book was “The Help”. We all met up first to catch the movie so we could include the movie adaptation in our discussion. I have to say that this book definitely drew out one of the most interesting discussions we have had since the book club started. We talked about everything from gender discrimination, racism , civil rights, parenting, and a whole myriad of other topics. However, the discussion I was too afraid to really bring up is whether or not the character of Hilly was a sympathetic character.]
Don’t get me wrong, the topic of her came up. The opinion seemed to be the same across the board, she was a good mother but a horrible person. But, I am not all that sure. I want to preface this by saying that I do not agree with her views in any way and I am in no way trying to defend her character or defend the characters of those like her, I am more or less trying to understand the reason why someone would be the way she was.
For someone who didn’t read the book, I want to make clear who Hilly really was. Hilly was your typical Stepford wife. She was the head of her ladies league, she was in control of pretty much every aspect of her life and her town, she was your prom queen, head cheerleader or whatever other girl you and your friends wanted to be like growing up. One blogger describes her as follows:
“this character never really changes throughout the book. In the first chapter she’s set up as the villain and maintains that persona throughout the novel. What she does learn is that “Johnny” (Celia’s husband. Celia is the character Stockett called a red neck in a UK interview) never fell as hard for her as she apparently did for him. If evil had a name it would be Hilly. Her character is one of the weakest in terms of character development in the novel.”
Heres where my opinion differs, while I agree that Hillys campaign to separate the races is disgusting and wrong, for her time she was actually doing what many felt was right. Reading the book from a modern day point of view it is easy to view her as pure evil because we do not agree with her. Now, we understand that we are all just people and the lines that were drawn was foolish and cruel. But at the time this book took place, many people still felt these lines were needed. Many people still felt there was a difference between the races. It may have not been cruelty in their eyes but just ignorance. We need to remember that this is how they were brought up and although what they believed was wrong, they didn’t know that. Remember, for a time many people felt the world was square, does that make those people stupid?
One thing we all agreed on was Hilly was a good mom. Actually, one of the only good moms in the book. Could this have been the author’s way of trying to show that even the people who were unable to see the good in the impending change could still be good people?
One scenario our book club vaguely glossed over was that of Yule May. Yule May was Hilly’s maid. Yule May asked for a loan and Hilly said no and her reason was, “That a true Christian don’t give in charity to those who is well and able. Say it’s kinder to let them learn to work things out themselves” Yule May ends up stealing a ring and going to jail for it. Although I wanted to hate Hilly for this I was left with a nagging question. Would I go to my boss for a loan for something so personal? And even if I would if he said no would I turn to stealing? Both answers was a definitive no for me. Although this may seem cruel what happened to Yule May I think the reader needs to remember that she was Yule May’s boss not her friend. Even though Yule May’s intentions were pure she did break the law.
The movie did a good job portraying Hilly as the villain, but movies are much more cut and dry than books. I think that while Hilly was the type of person who needed to be educated on the need for change I don’t think she was a purely evil person. I think Hilly was 100 % a product of her society and bought into all that she had learned growing up. I don’t think she saw the problem with the way things were and she was more focused on her own power and popularity that the need for change was not on her list of priorities.
So I turn to you bloggers, what did you think of the character of Hilly Holbrook, was she pure evil? If you didn’t read the book what do you think of the type of character she represents?