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Critical Analysis of Symbolism in ‘The Help’

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Everyone is exposed to discrimination. Whether it be at a young or old age, this exposure causes people to lose their innocence and realize that you should not mistreat someone because of their appearance. The film The Help (2011) produced by Tate Taylor; set in the 1960s, is a text that uses aesthetic features including symbolism, repetition, metaphor, and characterization. These aesthetic features are used to depict the concept of loss of innocence, particularly the realization of how it is wrong to discriminate against someone based on their appearance, and how you should stand in someone else’s shoes before you make assumptions about them.

The film, ‘The Help’ demonstrates loss of innocence through the use of symbolism and word choice, and film techniques like lighting, and actor positioning. Miss Skeeta starts to become more conscious of things she had not before when her friends, Hilly and Elizabeth are talking and Aibileen the maid comes to serve the salad. “Hilly raises her voice about three octaves higher when she talks to colored people. Elizabeth smiles like she’s talking to a child”. Taylor purposefully explains that ‘Elizabeth smiles at the maid as if she was a child to portray how it degrades people into being inferior. Hilly believes that the white people are superior to the ‘negroes’ so she treats them terribly. This quote demonstrates how Skeeta is starting to mature due to her friend’s treatment of the ‘colored’ maids. Skeeta realizes that this behavior is not acceptable but is too afraid to say anything to her friends as they will hate her because she is anti-racist. This represents how Skeeta values her friendships with Hilly and Elizabeth.

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At 27 minutes the lighting of the scene changes from bright to dark as there is a big storm heading toward the town. The start of the dark lighting occurs when Skeeta asks Abilene if she can interview her about “what it’s like to work as a maid for white families”. When Skeeta suggests this, Abilene clearly dislikes the idea and starts to walk away. Taylor purposefully utilizes the connotations of a storm being destructive to convey the idea that if Skeeta interviews Abilene it would be a disaster. Skeeta demonstrates that she does not understand the consequences of interviewing Abilene for stories about being a maid for white people. Skeeta starts to lose her innocence when she learns that even something as small as an interview and a story can ruin someone’s life.

The book Skeeta wrote symbolizes that she now understands racism is a problem in the town. Although the storm indicated that the book would be a disaster, it in fact helped Skeeta realize that racism was a serious problem in the town that needed to be resolved so that discrimination against ‘different’ people would not continue. This event caused Skeeta to change her opinion of the world to see people for who they really are. After Skeeta heard all of the maid’s stories she learned that white people think that they are superior, so they discriminate against people that are ‘different’. She, as a white anti-racist journalist, created a platform for the maids to have a voice because she believes that everyone should be treated equally. The fight that Skeeta and Hilly have towards the end of the film causes readers to understand that Skeeta now recognizes that Hilly was mistreating the maid because of her color. Skeeta decides to follow her heart and confront Hilly about her mistreatment of the maids because she understands that everyone should be treated the same.


Skeeta learned not to persecute someone based on their appearance. As Taylor illustrates through the use of aesthetic features and film techniques, loss of innocence regarding discrimination is necessary for the development of someone’s opinions. Loss of innocence for the two main characters is seen throughout both the text and film because of their displays of innocence at the start of the book through to the end of the book where they realize that discrimination is a massive problem in both towns. They learn to understand the true evil that resides within humanity. They recognize that people should not be treated differently because of their color, but rather be treated exactly the same as if they were no different. Between the 1930s to the 1960s, discrimination was still rife throughout the world. In today’s society, discrimination is still common and relevant.

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Critical Analysis of Symbolism in ‘The Help’. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from
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