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Comparative Study of Racial Discrimination in Novels: 'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett and 'Beloved' by Toni Morrison

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This dissertation entitled Comparative study of racial discrimination in the novels: The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Beloved by Toni Morrison is an attempt to compare and analyze the relationship between Blacks and Whites in the chosen novels using the theory of internalized racism by Karen D Pyke. This tries to focus on how black people suffered for reconstructing their identity and overcoming racial discrimination in the novels: The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Beloved by Toni Morrison. These novels tell us about the oppression faced by black people and deal with the cruel treatment of Whites them. By comparing these two novels we can find clearer ideas on the difference between writing about racial discrimination issues from different perspectives. It also examines the interracial relationship between Blacks and Whites which sheds light on the damaging consequence of racial prejudices.

Kathryn Stockett is an American novelist who is known for her 2009 debut novel, The Help. She was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1961. She studied at the University of Alabama and acquired a degree in English and Creative Writing. After completing her graduation, Kathryn moved to New York and worked in a magazine publishing company for over nine years.

Kathryn Stockett’s first novel The Help depicts the relationship dynamics between the Whites and their domestic servants who were African- Americans. This was during the 1960s when Blacks were not treated fairly by their masters. Kathryn had memories of her own childhood and the maid named Demetrie who served in her house. Only when she moved to the North, she understood that the Blacks were treated differently in her birthplace compared to the North. Kathryn wished to highlight this aspect in front of society by means of her first novel. It was indeed hard to publish her first novel. The novel faced more than sixty rejections and finally, Susan Romer at Don Congdon agreed to publish the book in 2009. The book received great recognition and was placed in New York Times best-seller list for more than a hundred weeks.

The novel became a milestone in her writing career earning tremendous praise and applause for writing on a unique subject matter. The inspiration for the novel is Stockett’s own childhood. Her childhood is only of blacks as domestic help for writing people which she assumed customary affair. After the publication of the novel, Stockett professed that she felt mortified that it took her twenty years to see the unjust treatment of Blacks. And the sole reason for her writing The Help was to understand why she couldn’t see through the duplicity of things in the South.

The help is a novel that is considered a unique novel as it narrates the life of black people who works as maids but it is written by a white American author. Stockett is motivated to write about racial discrimination in Jackson Mississippi due to her experiences living in Jackson Mississippi, her knowledge of the South, and the historical legacy of slavery and racism. This novel explores the life of black women who spent their lives taking care of white children. Every morning, the black maids leave their houses and let their kids be looked after by someone else. Stockett describes black maids as the ones who take care of and see the white children grow up. When they grew up, they will change to be the ones who oppress and dehumanize the back maids as if they forget the maids who have raised them since they were infants.

The Help deals with the story of three women who work together to challenge the racial status quo of their day. In the 1960s, Skeeter Phelan, the aspiring writer gets the idea to write a book about what it is really like to be a black maid working for a white family. She enlists the help of Aibileen Clark, a warm and wise black lady with a tragic past, and Minny Jackson, a sharp-tongued maid with a terrible secret to assist her in this task. The author, Stockett drew inspiration for writing this captivating novel from her close relationship with her maid, Demetrie. Despite the fact that Demetrie spent so much of her time taking care of the white kids, Stockett knew very little about her personal life and decided to fill that gap by writing in Demetrie’s voice. Demetrie eventually became the character of Aibileen, and Stockett slowly developed the storyline for the book. Influenced by Stockett’s experiences in seeing racial discrimination facts, Stockett portrays the powerless black people who are dominated by the white community. She creates a story that is narrated by three different characters namely Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. She also describes their livelihood in the stereotyped image of blacks.

Beloved is the second novel chosen for the comparative analysis of racial oppression with regard to the novel, The Help by Stockett. Beloved is the fifth book written by Toni Morrison, first published in 1987. Toni Morrison, a towering voice whose work took deep dive into race, gender, and class tensions in America. She came to be known as the master of creating unforgettable characters that highlighted racism and racial violence, often in ways that made polite society uncomfortable. Toni Morrison is one of the most celebrated authors in the world. Her works earned countless prestigious awards including the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. She is the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. She was born on February 18, 1931. Her original name is Chloe Anthony Wofford. She is noted for her examination of the black experience, particularly the black female experience within the black community. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, published in 1970, is a novel of initiation concerning a victimized adolescent black girl who is obsessed with white standards of beauty. In 1973, Sula, the second novel was published. It examines the dynamics of friendship and the expectations for conformity within the community. Song of Solomon is another novel that is told by a male narrator in search of his identity. This novel was published in 1977. In 1981, the novel titled Tar Baby has published the novel is set on a Caribbean island that explores conflicts of race, class, and sex. The critically acclaimed Beloved (1987), which won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is based on the true story of a runaway slave who kills her daughter, at a point of recapture, in order to spare her a life of slavery. Jazz was published in 1992 and Paradise followed in 1997. A Mercy (2008), Home (2012), and God Help the Child (2015) are the other notable works of Toni Morrison. She died on 2 August 2019 at the age of 88.

Toni Morrison is best known for her nuanced discussion of race in America through her writings. The novel Beloved is based on fact. Her inspiration for writing the story was Margaret Garner, who killed her two-year-old daughter in 1856, to keep her from being returned to slavery. Before she could kill the rest of her children and herself, slave catchers pried the knife from her fingers. On the backbone of this gruesome story, Morrison builds Beloved, a novel about a baby who haunts the mother who killed her. The story opens in Cincinnati, where former slave and current cook Sethe lives at 124 Bluestone Road with her daughter Denver and her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs. Fifteen years before the start of the story, Sethe killed her infant daughter, trying to keep her from being brought back into slavery. The community knows about the murder and rejects Sethe. Sethe’s two sons, Burglar and Howard left years before the novel’s start.

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After the death of Baby Suggs, Denver and Sethe are alone in the house with the ghost of the baby who died years ago. Furniture, and even people, often move around mysteriously. See the has accepted her lot, at least until Paul D Garner, who knows Sethe from their slavery days, arrives at the house. Sethe welcomes Paul D Garner into the house, and the two become a couple. Denver is not happy about this arrangement. However, the ghost of the baby seemed to disappear, and Denver and Sethe breathe a sigh of relief.

When a strange woman shows up at their house, Denver is thrilled to have someone to talk to. The woman introduces herself as Beloved, which is the name of Sethe’s murdered baby. Though she makes Sethe uncomfortable, she lets Beloved stay because Denver needs a friend. See the wonders if Beloved could be her own daughter, returned from the grave. Paul D Garner wants the girl to leave, but he has nothing to say. He doesn’t own the house and isn’t part of the family.

Beloved wants to own everything Sethe has, including Paul D Garner, so she seduces him. Then Paul D Garner hears from a family friend that Sethe killed her baby. When he challenges Sethe with the truth, they fight, and he storms out. Sethe isn’t bothered; she focuses all her attention on Beloved, leaving Denver wondering what has happened to her mother. Beloved’s attention to Denver and Sethe changes. Sethe, spending all her time with Beloved, loses her job and soon money and food are scarce at Bluestone Road. Denver, who hasn’t left the house in years, has to go and ask for help. She gets a job to provide for her mother and the pregnant Beloved. The women of the town decide Beloved is haunting Sethe and have an exorcism. Denver’s employer Mr. Bodwin, who is a white man, arrives to take her to work. Seeing this, Sethe imagines again, the slave catcher coming to take her children away, and attacks the man with an ice pick. When the craziness settles, Sethe is safe, and so is Mr. Bodwin. Beloved has simply disappeared. Paul D Garnner returns and he and Sethe make up. No one ever finds out what has happened to Beloved.

Morrison’s Beloved explores the plight of black women in white-dominated American society. The novel depicts the Afro- American women as the victims of racial discrimination. This novel typically documents their lives as a struggle to claim back their sense of self, which they have either lost or not yet had. It exposes the inhumanities of the slavery system in America practiced during that time. The novel is a fractured history as it consists of fragments of memory narrated in a flashback technique. Morrison resorts to historical facts and details to enable her readers to be aware of the rich and complex cultural heritage of the Afro-American society and the status and the position of the women in it. The novel is set against the backdrop of the American civil war, the time before and after the abolishment of slavery. It attempts to seek a solution to the racial oppression and class exploitation suffered by the African community.

The common element which is present in the chosen novels: The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Beloved by Toni Morrison is racial discrimination. The word race is used to categorize people according to their physical differences whether in the color of their skin as African people. Like gender and class, race is an abstract concept. A race is a grouping of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into categories generally viewed as distinct by society. Race is not intrinsic to human beings but rather an identity created, often by socially dominant groups to establish meaning in a social context. Different cultures define different racial groups, often focussed on the largest group of social relevance. The theory of internalized racism or internalized oppression by Karen D Pyke is used for the comparative study of racial discrimination in the novels: The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Beloved by Toni Morrison.

What is internalized racism? As Karen D Pyke documents the theoretical element of internalized racism or internalized racial oppression, the victims of racism begin to believe the ideology that they are inferior and that white people and white culture are superior. The internalizing of racism is not due to any weakness, inferiority, ignorance, psychological defect, or other shortcomings of the oppressed. Instead, it is how authority and power in all aspects of society contribute to the feeling of inequality. It is a form of internalized oppression, defined by sociologist Karen D Pyke as the “internalization of racial oppression by the racially subordinated.” It is a product of racism, which unavoidably emerges because of the duality in which a person is looked at, and that the impression of the person changes depending on who is looking at the person.

The creation of a dominant, “superior” class depends upon the existence of groups of exploitable “others” distinguished by their alleged inferiority. Identities linked to gender, race, sexual, and caste oppressions are not merely by-products of inequality but a constitutive component of their formation. These categorical distinctions become habitual as they are constructed in and through social relations and organizations, causing even the oppressed to have a stake in their subordinated identity. When the oppressed come to accept their identities as “real”, they are in effect internalizing their subjugated status in their definition of self. Any attempt to construct oppositional identities is greatly constrained as they must do so in relation to the categorical schemas and meanings dictated by the oppressors. (Pyke 557)

Pyke in her article “What is internalized racial oppression and why don’t we study it? Acknowledging racism’s hidden injuries”, explains that internalized racism and internalized oppression initiate the moment when the oppressed “accept the identities imposed on them by the oppressors” (Pyke 557). She explains that one example, which underlines the longing to distance oneself from the negative stereotypes of oppressed races and thereby shows the oppressed group of people’s acceptance of their identity imposed by their oppressor, is the ‘defensive othering’. The ‘defensive othering’ exemplifies itself when a subordinated group of people choose to further subordinate a part of their group. They are creating an “other” within their own racial group. Internalized racism deeply affected and affects American society because prejudice about races come to exist in people’s mind, not only about the “other” race but also about one’s own race.

This dissertation focuses on the comparative study of racial discrimination in the novels: The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Beloved by Toni Morrison. This thesis begins with an introduction followed by the first chapter. The first chapter deals with the background of the study, a literature review that consists of a review of the related study, the history of racism in America, and different types of racism. The second chapter gives an analysis of racial discrimination in the novels through the mindset of various characters. The third chapter deals with the comparative study of racial discrimination in the chosen works followed by the conclusion and findings of the study.

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Comparative Study of Racial Discrimination in Novels: ‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett and ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison. (2023, February 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 30, 2023, from
“Comparative Study of Racial Discrimination in Novels: ‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett and ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison.” Edubirdie, 24 Feb. 2023,
Comparative Study of Racial Discrimination in Novels: ‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett and ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Sept. 2023].
Comparative Study of Racial Discrimination in Novels: ‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett and ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Feb 24 [cited 2023 Sept 30]. Available from:
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