The Help

Internalized language stereotypes within The Help College

Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, published in 2009, received critical acclaim upon its release and it remained number one on the New York Times bestseller list for a year. By the time the 2011 film adaptation of the book went to theaters, The Help had sold 3 million copies, featured in the New York Times bestseller list for over two years, and had been published in 35 countries and translated into three languages (S. Jones, 8). The popularity of Stockett’s novel was widespread, yet many historians and scholars have raised questions about the stereotypes that the novel perpetrates and the accuracies of the dialect of the characters. Stockett writes African American character’s dialogue in a broken, marked form of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) while representing all white characters, even those of the working-class, with very few vernacular markings despite the fact that most, if not all, characters would have had Southern vernacular markings. The novel plays into the racial stereotypes that Stockett claims she was trying to eliminate, but the feel-good “we’re all the same” themes and the fact that the white, upper-middle class woman protagonist succeeds in the end suggests that the popular acclaim may have come from an...

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