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In Kathryn Stockett's novel, The Help, the exposition introduces the story's three main characters, describes their characteristics and where they live within the society of Jackson, Mississippi
The three main characters are Miss Skeeter Phelan, a white "socialite" who has just returned from college with a degree, who wants to be a writer. The woman who opens the book is Aibileen, a black maid who works for Skeeter's close friend (Elizabeth), keeping house and raising her seventeenth baby—Mae Mobley—and Minny who has trouble not speaking her mind. In fact, she gets fired by Miss Hilly (another of Skeeter's "friends") and goes to work for a social outcast, Miss Celia.
In the rising action of the story, Skeeter learns from Aibileen that the maid's only son, Treelore (an educated, promising young man) was killed in a freak accident; he had wanted to write a book about what it was like for a man growing up in Mississippi. This idea plants the seed in Skeeter's mind to write a book about the experiences of black maids working for white women in Jackson, Mississippi. We learn that Aibileen lives alone, works hard for Miss Elizabeth (who has no time for her daughter), and lives alone. When Skeeter first asks Aibileen to help her write the book, the maid refuses. Becoming too bitter to remain silent, Aibileen agrees to help, suggesting that her close friend Minny may also help. When Yule May, fired for stealing from Hilly is sent to jail, the maids in the town are so angry at Hilly (who is responsible for Yule May's unfair treatment), that ten or more women agree to help Skeeter write her book. Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter work very hard to collect the stories and prepare them to be printed. Skeeter starts seeing Stuart, a senator's son. Minny (whose husband beats her) is working for Miss Celia, who Minny thinks is crazy. Celia, being "poor white trash," is not accepted into the well-to-do social circle of Jackson, but mostly because her husband (Johnny) once dated Hilly, who thought they would marry. Eventually, when Skeeter tells Stuart of the book, he cannot handle it and he leaves. Finally, Minny's husband beats her and threatens to burn her alive in the house. She leaves with the children, but Johnny (Miss Celia's husband) has promised Minny a job with them as long as she wants it for helping Celia when she almost died.
It's hard to decide what the climax or turning point of the story takes place. Depending upon who you ask, it could be when the maids agree to help Skeeter, or it could be when the women learn that Harper and Row will publish the book. Some might even find it happening later, when Hilly confronts Aibileen about the book. It is here that Aibileen, always so respectful, calls Hilly's bluff when Hilly threatens to accuse her of stealing and have her arrested. I am inclined to think that this is the turning point, for the tension of that moment is almost unbearable, and Aibileen is finally able to put Hilly in her place, which the reader (and all the maids) have been waiting for. (A turning point so late in the story is not unheard of.)
So the falling action would be when Aibileen has to say good-bye to Mae Mobley—she tells the child that she is retiring and she repeats that Mae Mobley is kind, smart and important. It is at this point that Aibileen knows that she is finally free. The money from the newspaper writing and the book won't be enough, but Aibileen has hope she can start over—with a new life, even at her age.
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