Character, Dignity, and Self-Respect of the Help Essay

This paper will address the philosophies of Aristotle, Epictetus, and Saint Augustine and relate them to the movie The Help. Also this paper will relate each philosopher to the movie by, Aristotle: Ethics based on personal virtue, Epictetus: Ethics based on inner strength of the individual, and Saint Augustine: Ethics based on following a Divine Command. Each philosopher was born and lived in different time period before Christ and after Christ. However; there theories on good and evil are widely known and discussed.

Aristotle lived from 384 to 322 B. C. nd was a student of the great philosopher Pluto. His theory of happiness is defined “as functioning well. The function of a thing is its special kind of activity, what can do better than anything else. Thus, the function of human beings is the exercise of their capacity to reason. A capacity that enables a thing or a being to function well is a virtue” (Sommers and Sommers; 2013) Airstotle’s views on happiness was to find inner peace within one’s self. Epictetus lived from 55 to 135 AD and was born a slave who was later freed by his master who paid for his education.

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His views on ethics are based on inner strength of the individual. He thought all external events are determined by fate, and are thus beyond our control; we should accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. However, individuals are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline. Also Suffering occurs from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power. As part of the universal city that is the universe, it is our duty to care for all our fellow men.

Those who follow these precepts will achieve happiness and peace of mind. “Epictetus tells us that regardless of circumstances, human beings are capable of dignity and self- control” (Sommers & Sommers, 2013, p. 281). Saint Augustine lived from 354 to 430 AD and was a Father of the Church whose writings are considered very influential in the development of Western Christianity and philosophy. His ethics based on following a Divine Command were something he widely thought and has been study for hundreds of years. The influential fourth century Christian thinker, distrusted reason and believed that moral goodness depends on subordinating oneself to the will of God” (Rachels & Rachels, 2012, p. 157). He believes that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom and he framed the concepts of original sin and just war. The movie the help The movie the help is about colored women who are maids for rich white people in a southern town in the 1960’s. The movie shows how people were treated back then. How whites and blacks were separated and had to use separate bathroom, laundry mats, line and even eat at different locations in a restaurant.

It is also about how the black maids knew everything going on and all the white people’s dirty little secrets. When a young writer Skieeter wanted to write a book based on the maids and everything they knew and saw she was first met with resistant’s however was very prescient of it. As a result the maids agreed to tell all when they had enough of how they were being treated. This movie relates to each of the philosophers in a very well and unique way. Abileen showed that in spite of her son’s death that her life could still remain good and thoroughly fulfilled.

She loved what she did when it came to caring for Mae Mobley. She (Abileen) could be happy and taught this to Mae Mobley. Her aspirations as a writer, which her son also wanted to be, could still be done. Though she didn’t live her life through his death her desire to become something other than a maid was a part of her future. The inner strength of Abileen remained stoic, her faith carried her through the good and the bad, as she wrote in her diary, and she wrote prayers which sustained her throughout the treatment of her employer.

Much like Aristotle she chooses happiness, strength and dignity were of Epictetus, and like Saint Augustine she displayed her better qualities to overlook the ladies of Mississippi. Her faith proved to be stronger than any mistreatment just like that of Saint Augustine, using her faith to carry her threw the hard times. Many obstacles were overcome in this move such as racism and many more. As a whole Abileen watched others overcome injustice, mistreatment and being accused of things that had not taken place. Her faith was tested, and her view of life took on a different point of view.

As the movie progresses, we see Abileen remaining calm as she is told only to speak to when being spoken to. Her calm throughout these moments was admirable. Skieeter was a white women who wanted to write about black maids. This was something her own mother was not to happy about. A young white girl who hung around a bunch of older black women, what would the neighbors and her friends think if other knew. However; skieeter did not see it that way and saw the maids as just people as well. Many hardships were endured during this movie.

The death of Ablieen’s son, being arrested when she had done nothing, having to walk when she should have been able to ride the bus line further than she was allowed, and resisting her natural instinct to love outwardly. If you notice she only showed Mae Mobley the most love when her mother was not around. Having to use a bathroom outside of the home could have made any person walk away from the job however she remained quiet about her feelings of having to do so. Ablieen knew that her employers paid her very well and due to her age she would have a hard time getting another job that paid.

As a result Ablieen did everything she could do to remain quiet and take whatever her job dished out at her so she could pay the bills and take care of everything she had to in her own personal life. She would turn to her faith a lot and pray several times just to get through the day. Abileen demonstrate a character of life, dignity and self-respect by her faith, her respect in spite of being disrespected, the strength of character she showed, and being there for others. Also being able to talk freely, with Skeeter once Abileen knew she could be trusted. This allowed her to tell the story of the maids without being vindictive.

Many things she faced she could have walked away from however there was no refuge to do so. She continued to carry on until the day that she was anguished over being told that she had stolen silver from another home. That was the day she knew she had to walk away. Conclusion It is in this papers conclusion that Abileen fallowed more of Saint Augustine’s theory more than that of others. However; Skeeter seemed to fallow that more so on Epictetus theories of life. This paper has shown how the characters relate to the theories of Epictetus, Saint Augustine and Aristotle.


Rachels, J. & Rachels, S (2012); The elements of Moral Philosophy; the McGraw-Hill companies, inc; New York, NY; USA

Sommers, C. & sommers F. (2013); Vice and Virtue in everyday life; Wadsworth; Boston, MA, USA


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