Racism: The Intertwined Theme
According to a 2008 Gallup poll, most African Americans residing in America strongly believe racism is still a major factor embedded in their lives. Racism is defined as prejudice or discrimination directed against individuals of a different race based on such a belief. Though racism is not extinct and plays a role in today’s society, it was much more severe and widely accepted during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's. Anne Moody's book, Coming of Age in Mississippi, and Tate Taylor's film, The Help, based on the book written by Kathryn Stockett's, are both novels that expose the severity of racism and prejudice during the Civil Rights Movement. Though both novels take place during the same time period, they differ in numerous ways. Through different approaches, Coming of Age in Mississippi and The Help both give insight to the many problems associated with racism during the period of the Civil Rights Movement.
There are many similarities that tie together The Help and Coming of Age in Mississippi. The most prominent and significant similarity of both novels is the idea of racism. Entwined throughout the books, the theme of racism is the backbone, which reflects the hardships African Americans experienced throughout the 1960’s. In the novel, Coming of Age in Mississippi, the main character, Anne, and her family, are African Americans. Along with the other "black" plantation workers, her and her family live in shacks without electricity or indoor plumbing. On the contrary, the "white" family's houses have electricity and indoor plumbing. This is overbearing discrimination as the black families work unbelievably hard on the plantation just to live unsanitary while the white families live comfortably through them. In the novel The Help, the main character, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, asks different black maids, referred to as the “help”, domestic questions. She discovers her friend’s attitudes about the "help” and her friend, Hilly Holbrook, made something for her home called a "Home Help Sanitation Initiative". This initiative is for separate bathrooms for black maids because they carry different diseases. Hilly's thoughts reflect extremely racial judgments. Treating the African Americans as though they are not people, she often depicts them as dogs or wild animals that are bringing diseases and infections into her house. Both novels involve the public having an opinion that African Americans were genetically inferior to whites.
Throughout the two novels, The Help and Coming of Age in Mississippi, there is a prominent theme of standing up and fighting for your individual rights. In the Coming of Age in Mississippi, the main character Anne strongly stands up for racial equality. Staying strong as an activist, Anne joins the NAACP, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and CORE, Coalition for the Organization of Racial Equality. In spite her strong efforts to overcome the racial opinion throughout the 1960’s, Anne’s parents, especially her mother, protest racism, as well. In the novel, the sheriff told Anne’s mother that if Anne participated in the NAACP events, it could bring harm to the family. Anne’s influential actions, regardless of everyone telling her not to participate, indicate her strong passion and persistence to diminish discrimination. Throughout the novel The Help, the main character Skeeter also proudly stands up to protect African American’s equality. The public opinion of Caucasians being superior to African Americans does not affect Skeeter or influence her decisions. In fact, after attending college she is the only individual in proximity to her friends and family with a different attitude towards racism. Skeeter explains, "I was raised by a colored woman. We love them and they love us - but they can't even use the toilets in our houses." Skeeter was raised by a colored woman; therefore she strongly believes there is not a difference between...
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