The Differences in the Motivations for Learning of Scout from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Skeeter from Kathryn Stockett’s The Help
Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird and Skeeter from The Help both learn about the lives of people not in their own racial group, but they both have different motivations for learning. In the film The Help, Skeeter learns about the black community by interviewing black maids in Jackson for a book she is writing. Skeeter is driven to seek out black maids to interview for the purpose of hearing information about different perspectives, and to publish their experiences for the world to read. Skeeter gave black maids a chance to share their experiences because the households the maids work for take them for granted, and do not consider their feelings and perspectives. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout learns about the lives of black people in her hometown of Maycomb by interacting with them at their church. After learning that her family’s black cook Calpurnia taught her son to read, Scout says, “That Calpurnia led a modest double life never dawned on me. The idea that she had a separate existence outside our household was a novel one, to say nothing of her having command of two languages” (Lee 167). Scout is encouraged to come to the black church with her brother by Calpurnia, but she does not go with any intent other than to spend time with Calpurnia. The questions she that asks Calpurnia about the lives of people in the black community are asked because of her naturally childish curiosity, not out of a sense of injustice like Skeeter does. Scout and Skeeter are both initially unaware of the prejudices that black people in their towns suffer because of how society treats them, until they take time to listen to the perspective of someone who is not white. While Skeeter has more influence on how blacks are viewed in Jackson by publishing their stories, Scout educating herself on the perspective of another group sets her apart from the ignorant people of Maycomb.
Aunt Alexandra from To Kill a Mockingbird and Hilly from The Help are both prejudiced, but while Hilly keeps her prejudices until the end, Aunt Alexandria eventually lets her prejudices go. When Aunt Alexandra learns that Tom Robinson has been shot dead, she says to Miss Maudie, referring to Atticus and the trial, “I can’t say I approve of everything he does, Maudie, but he’s my brother, and I just want to know when this will ever end. It tears him to pieces” (Lee 316). Aunt Alexandra acts like the other members of the Finch family in the beginning, as she does not support Atticus defending Tom Robinson, claiming that he has brought shame upon the Finches. While she initially comes across as an unsupportive, cold, and racist woman, her exterior breaks the moment when she learns that the man her brother failed to defend is now dead, and her hidden inner loyalty towards Atticus shows. Hilly, on the other hand, is presented as aggressively racist throughout the film, from beginning to end. An example of Hilly still being prejudiced at the end is when she storms up to Skeeter, threatening to tell her mother that she wrote The Help. Hilly is furious that a white woman like Skeeter would try to sympathize with the black community in Jackson, as she believes that black people are beneath white people. She shows her prejudices by never showing any compassion towards black people in Jackson, and she goes out of her way to make life harder for her own maids whenever possible. Ironically, Hilly doesn’t mind running charity benefits for people in Africa, but cannot even try to sympathize with the black people living in her own town. Hilly never shows any change of heart, unlike Aunt Alexandria, who eventually sees the toll the trial is taking on her brother and sympathizes with him and his cause.
Both Constantine and Calpurnia are similar because they act as mother figures towards the children they help raise. An example of Calpurnia acting as a mother towards Scout is when Jem shouts that Scout should start “being a girl and acting right”, Calpurnia comforts a crying Scout by saying “I just can’t help it if Mister Jem’s growin’ up. He’s gonna want to be off to himself a lot now, doin’ whatever boys do, so you just come right on in the kitchen when you feel lonesome. We’ll find lots of things to do in here” (Lee 154). Since Scout’s mother is dead, Calpurnia acts as the motherly figure in Scout’s life, even if she already has a family of her own. Scout is the only female in a male-dominated household, and she also happens to be the youngest. Calpurnia recognizes this, and she makes sure that she is always available to Scout whenever Atticus and Jem are not. In The Help, Constantine acts as a mother towards Skeeter, even though Skeeter’s mother is alive and well. In the film, Skeeter has a childhood flashback to when Constantine comforted her when she was not asked to a dance, and how Constantine provided her with words of encouragement. Even though Constantine is just a maid, she still feels responsibility towards Skeeter as a mother would. When she sees Skeeter in need, her motherly instincts immediately kick in, and she goes to Skeeter’s side, not intending to leave until she is sure Skeeter is comforted. Both Calpurnia and Constantine are similar because while the children they watch over are not their own, they know that they cannot bear to leave a child in distress.
Both Tom Robinson from To Kill a Mockingbird and Aibileen from The Help are similar because they are both blamed for things they did not do because of their race. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson is falsely accused and convicted of raping a white woman. When Jem complains to Atticus that it was not fair that Tom was found guilty by the jury, Atticus replies “There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads- they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life” (Lee 295). Atticus is an experienced lawyer, and the evidence he presents to the court makes it clear that Tom Robinson did not rape Mayella Ewell, as he would be physically unable to. Because of social codes in 1930s Alabama, however, the white jury cannot be convinced that a black man can be innocent, and Tom Robinson is given a death sentence. In The Help, Hilly forces Elizabeth to fire Aibileen by falsely claiming that Aibileen stole some silverware. Hilly knows that no evidence would be needed to have a black person arrested for theft, especially when the alleged victim is white. Even though Aibileen evades being reported to the police by threatening to reveal Hilly as the subject of “the terrible awful”, she is still fired for something she did not do. Because of Hilly’s desire to take revenge on Aibileen contributing to The Help, Aibileen has to painfully leave behind Mae Mobley, the child she raised, to her neglectful mother. Both Aibileen and Tom suffer oppression from the racist society they live in, and because of the paradigm in their communities , neither of them get a chance to clear their rightful names.
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