A mother is conditioned to teach her children things, whethershe wants to or not. A child’s purpose of growing is to absorb all they haven’tbefore and stimulate new concepts. A book examining How Humans Learn new things relates, “the development of an accurate representation ofphysical reality depends on the gradual coordination of schemes of looking,listening, and touching”. This conveyshow a mother can be the physical reality for a child, and be the figure theysee, hear, and touch to exemplify what living is. Some of the most importantlife lessons are learned from the wisdom of a mother, but as well as theliteral teachings of child-like practices such as: riding a bike, reading abook, or memorizing time tables. These teacher like skills of a mother areconveyed through literature as well. In every hero’s journey story, a conceptformulated my Northrop Frye, there is a mentor who leads the child or protagonistto a better world and new beginning.
In many stories, the mentor of the hero istheir mother because of the trust and knowledge already shared between the two.The mentor role is also considered a teacher for the young hero, so that theyleave the journey with having learned new things. This approach to literatureis shown through several of the mother-child relationships within the novel The Help. Many of the characters withinthe novel are the maids of white mothers in Jackson. The setting of the noveltakes place when black maids were acquired for households and worked eight to tenhours every day raising the children and cleaning the house. This length ofintimacy with the children, created opportunities for the maids to become veryattached and close to them. It also gave the maids the chances to perform therole of a teacher for the children as well. An example of this is with thecharacter Aibileen and her “chillun”, as the maids call them, Mae MobleyLeefolt.
At the beginning of the novel Mae is described, “red-hot and holleringwith colic, fighting that bottle like it’s a rotten turnip”, symbolizing thebottle as a mother-daughter connection and the lack of relationship Mae haswith her mother. So, it is predictable that the relationship Aibileen and MaeMobley create will be strong and allow further roles to be fulfilled for boththe characters. This meaning that since Aibileen doesn’t have her child anymore,Mae will be hers, and due to the poor relationship Mae has with her mom,Aibileen will act as hers. A greater development for both characters in thefuture shows throughout the story as their relationship does becomes veryactive and end with Mae Mobley calling Aibileen, “Mama”. Aibileen contributesto the relationship by observing Mae’s lack of confidence and then strives toteach her the truth.
The phrase “You is strong, you is smart, you is important”is a motto she teaches Mae to remind her, through everything, that she will becomesomething bigger than herself. At the end of their relationship, Aibileen isfired from her maid job with Mae, but remarks, “I look deep into her rich browneyes and she look into mine. Law, she got old-soul eyes, like she done lived athousand years.
And I swear I see, down inside, the women she gone grow up tobe. … She is proud. And she is remembering the words I put into her head.Remembering as a full-grown woman”. Although not proven, Aibileen knows fromlooking at Mae that the lesson she taught her has changed her life and willaffect how she lives the rest of her life as well.
The teaching roles withinthe novel differ from negative and positive throughout the disparate motherlycharacters and shows a direct effect on the children. However, all the childrenmentioned within the novel, at least have that mother figure for them to copyas they are a growing youth. Whether it be a maid, adoptive parent, orbiological mother, all the children learn concepts directly from their ownfigures.