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the help, updated

August 21, 2011

I’d like to make a change to something I wrote recently about The Help:

As for the central character, the world is short on martyrs, and they can’t be our only heroes. The South raised a lot of Skeeter Phelans: a lot of women who were unable to see what was happening around them as it happened. (I got a call from one of them right after she read it, asking, “How could I not have seen that all that was going on?”) I don’t believe the book provides an out to these women; it does not excuse their complacency. Rather it reveals the structural ways Southern society suppressed dissent.

The woman who called has reminded me what she really said, and I’ve changed it to this. I think it actually supports my point even better (and has the benefit of being accurate):

As for the central character, the world is short on martyrs, and they can’t be our only heroes. The South raised a lot of Skeeter Phelans: a lot of women who were disempowered from speaking out about what they saw around them. (I got a call from one of them right after she read it, saying, “I never felt I could do anything about it. Back then, Southern girls didn’t challenge their parents and elders without serious consequences.”) I don’t believe the book provides an out to these women; it does not excuse their complacency. Rather it reveals the structural ways Southern society suppressed dissent.

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