I like to read reviews of books after I’ve read the book. I like to see if I agree or disagree with the review, if that reader noticed things I didn’t or had a different take on them. It’s one of the ways I help myself think more about what I read. It’s like having one of you lead discussions: ideas are presented to me, rather than generated by me, and I respond. It’s this interaction of ideas that leads to thinking.
I came across this line in a review of The Help: The book is worth reading if for no other reason than the reminder that popularity and public opinion are bondage. It stopped me in my reading tracks. It’s not a new idea, but in this context, perhaps because of the word “bondage,” it seemed significant. At the very least, it’s something I want to think more about.
In terms of the book, I think every character can be called a slave to popularity and public opinion. Hilly has to work hard to maintain her place. Elizabeth and Celia can’t seem to alter their positions no matter how hard they try: they’ve been labeled, and they’re stuck with those labels.
In fact, Celia is kind of a slave to Minny’s opinion—or public opinion as Minny interprets it. Celia doesn’t seem to see herself as above Minny. Rather, she recognizes and acknowledges some of Minny’s strengths and abilities as superior to her own. She likes and respects Minny and wants to be her friend. But Minny won’t have it, even though she doesn’t disagree that her abilities are often superior. She refuses to accept a place on equal ground with her employer, even when it’s offered. I’d say she holds herself above her white employer.
Do you agree? What other ways are popularity and public opinion conveyed as bondage?
By some measures, I think I walked away from popularity and public opinion a long time ago by choosing this life I live, but my work is often slave to them. Is a writer/needleworker/designer successful if public opinion doesn’t favor her work? Can she earn a living if her work isn’t popular? Trying to make a living with my creative output means that it is judged publicly. There’s no way around that. If I want to make money, I have to produce things the public wants and deems valuable enough to exchange money for.
If I’m honest, having my work and income be a slave to popularity and public opinion bothers me greatly, but I can’t deny or ignore the fact that it is.
In what ways do you feel the bondage of popularity and public opinion?