Assignment Based on “The Help”
Reading: Please read the book “The Help” and answer the questions below in between 2 to 3 pages. Your answers will be graded based on a Check Plus, a Check, or a Check Minus. The assignment is due on Monday Feb. 25th (postponed from Jan. 28th).
The Help is a novel set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960’s as the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum. The book was subsequently made into a film that has gained wide recognition. The central characters feature two African-American maids, Aibileen and Minny who clean house and care for children in two white families, and Skeeter, the daughter of white upper class parents who own a plantation just outside of town. After initial conversations with Aibileen, Skeeter begins to appreciate how different life is from the perspective of an African-American maid. Skeeter, whose ambition is to become a journalist collaborates with Aibileen and Minny to write a book of stories telling what life is like from the perspective of the kitchen as a maid in the segregated south.
Sheila and June are both twenty-two year-old females. Sheila is an African American from a low- income family whereas June is Caucasian and is from a middle-class family. They both are as of yet unmarried and are looking for jobs. Sheila and June have been placed in a time machine and first travel back to the American south in 1960. Assume that they spend most of the afternoon looking for a jobs. Then magically, the time machine transports them forward to 2012 and they are similarly looking for jobs.
1. Assuming that the novel, The Help is historically accurate, what types of job opportunities are likely to be offered to Sheila and June (assuming for the moment that they had obtained their educations back in the 1950’s and 1960’s). What levels of education are they likely to have achieved in the world of the 1950’s and 1960’s as evidenced by the maids in the book? Visit the website for the University of Dayton School of Law and find some examples of Jim Crow laws http://academic.udayton.edu/race/02rights/jcrow02.htm . How realistic is the portrayal of the law in The Help? What ethical theories motivated American society to abolish this system of segregation?
2. What landmark decision brought down the separate but equal doctrine and when did it occur? Did it immediately equalize opportunities and income levels?
3. What is the relationship between culture and the law? To what extent does the law reflect cultural expectations and to what extent do cultural expectations impact the law?
4. How do you think Sheila’s and June’s job hunting experiences affected their self-esteem?
5. Assume that Sheila and June have been catapulted forward to 2012 and assume that they have been educated in the manner typical of the time. What types of job opportunities are available to them in 2012? What federal statutes have been put in place to level the playing field with regard to employment? Are equal opportunity protections rooted in the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment or in federal statutes? Please explain.
6. Visit the website for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) http://www.bls.gov/ Try to find out information about differences in earnings by sex, race, and Hispanic origin. In terms of earnings, how well are white women doing relative to white men? How well are black or African American women doing as compared with white women? How well are women doing relative to men? What about Hispanics?
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