The Help

The Help Imagery

"In fact, the shades of brown on Constantine were endless. Her elbows were absolutely black, with a dry white dust on them in winter. The skin on her arms and neck and face was a dark ebony. The palms of her hands were orangey-tan and that made me wonder if the soles of her feet were too, but I never saw her barefooted" (pg. 76)

Recalling her close childhood relationship with her family's maid Constantine, Skeeter describes Constantine's skin in this way.

Stockett deftly uses a number of different shades to describe Constantine's appearance. In addition to conveying a vivid picture, this description of Constantine's many colors may also undermine the rigid black-white binary. If so many colors are contained within just one person, it's absurd that society should set up boundaries between people of different colors.

"On either side of me, the cotton fields are a glaring green, fat with bolls. Daddy lost the back fields to the rain last month, but the majority bloomed unharmed. The leaves are just starting to spot brown with defoliant and I can still smell the sour chemical in the air" (pg. 83)

This is a vivid description of the beautiful scenery of the south. It is also noteworthy for its use of unique adjectives to convey the appearance of the fields. Rather than being covered in bolls, the fields are "fat" with bolls; instead of being covered with brown spots, the leaves are "starting to spot brown."

"We step out onto the blacktop, feel the heat cover us. I got the paper sack in one hand, Mae Mobley's hand in the other and we trudge across the steaming black lot. Gridlines make it like we on a charcoal grill, roasting like corncobs. My face getting tight, burning in the sun. Baby Girl lagging back on my hand and looking stunned like she just got slapped. Miss Leefolt panting and frowning at the door, still twenty yards away, wondering, I reckon, why she park so far. The part in my hair get to burning, then itching, but I can't scratch at it cause both hands is full, then shoo! somebody blow out the flame. The lobby's dark, cool, heaven" (pg. 237)

Stockett uses a number of strategies to convey the experience of walking in the heat. She uses similes that draw on cooking to convey the feeling of walking on blacktop in extreme heat. She describes the reactions of the other characters, not mentioning how sweaty or hot they are, but instead describing how Mae Mobley is "stunned" by the heat, and how Miss Leefolt "frowns" at the faraway door. She also describes a minor but uncomfortable sensation in the narrator's own body - the way that heat and sweat can contribute to an itchy scalp.

"In the lounge, the air seems to still. Husbands drinking their whiskeys stop in mid-sip, spotting this pink thing at the door. It takes a second for the image to register. They stare, but don't see, not yet. But as it turns real - real skin, real cleavage, perhaps not-so-real blond hair - their faces slowly light up. They all seem to be thinking the same thing - Finally.... But then, feeling the fingernails of their wives, also staring, digging into their arms, their foreheads wrinkle. Their eyes hint remorse, as marriages are scorned (she never lets me do anything fun), youth is remembered (why didn't I go to California that summer?), first loves are recalled (Roxanne...) All of this happens in a span of about five seconds and then it is over and they are just left staring" (pg. 379)

This quote vividly captures the appearance of Celia, clad in a scandalously skimpy tight pink dress, at the conservative Benefit. This use of imagery is effective because it does not linger on descriptions of Celia, but rather on the reactions that she inspires among the men in the room. This allows the reader to fill in the details of Celia's appearance from her/his own imagination.