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In Kathryn Stockett's novel, The Help, Skeeter Phelan has special memories of the woman who helped to raise her: Constantine. When Skeeter felt she could not find a place in the house where she belonged, Constantine was there to rock and comfort her. When Skeeter returns home from college, she is shocked to find that Constantine has left. While Skeeter's mother tells her that Constantine gave up her position to live with family, Skeeter finds that something about her mother's explanation does not ring true, but her mother will not give her any further information.
At first Skeeter does not know who to ask for more information. When she and Aibileen begin their project, Skeeter tries to get Aibileen to give her the answers her mother will not. Aibileen refuses to do so for some time. However, as their book develops, so does Aibileen's trust of Skeeter; Aibileen is like Constantine in that she has raised seventeen white children and has felt that each was like her own. Perhaps more than anyone, Aibileen can understand the special bond that Skeeter shared with Constantine, and how bereft Skeeter now feels having been cut off from her without the opportunity understand why Constantine left so abruptly, and why Skeeter wasn't even able to say good-bye.
The truth is that Constantine's daughter was born looking like a white child. This created a great many difficulties for Constantine. If she was out of her uniform, she was questioned as to why she was in the company of a white child, in a society dominated by whites. There were social expectations of these black maids, and they had to adhere to the rules if they want to keep their jobs. Ultimately, Constantine is forced to put her daughter (who does not really fit in with the white or black communities) into a black orphanage, which is perhaps the hardest thing she ever had to do. Her hope was to be reunited with her daughter as soon as possible.
Her child is adopted and it is some time before they are reunited: in fact, when Constantine's daughter arrives, she comes to Skeeter's home where her mother is entertaining white women. Constantine's daughter acts as if she is white and mingles with the white guests—Skeeter's mother takes the young woman's audacity and defiant attitude as a personal affront. She demands that the woman leave. Constantine begs Mrs. Phelan to allow her daughter to stay with her, out of the way, in Constantine's little house. Skeeter's mother is so appalled that this black woman has presented herself as "one of them" ("polite" society) that she refuses. Constantine leaves with her daughter, not permitted to even write to Skeeter to explain.
When Skeeter finds out that something happened, she cannot believe that her mother was capable of doing what Aibileen had described. Skeeter's mom is still defiant about what happened. However, what hurts Skeeter the most is that she cannot be in touch with Constantine, who is lost to her forever. Constantine left to live a life with her daughter after so many years of separation, only to die three weeks after leaving the Phelan household.
This is the secret Mrs. Phelan has kept from her daughter. Skeeter feels as if she has lost a dear, dear friend—someone who was really like a mother to her.
Later in the novel, Skeeter finds out from Aibileen that her former maid Constantine is dead. The reasons for Constantine's leaving the family have been unknown to Skeeter for years. While Skeeter was away at university, Constantine left the family, and Skeeter's mother simply told her that Constantine decided to leave. However, Skeeter had been very close to Constantine and does not believe that Constantine would just leave the family abruptly. After Skeeter begins the writing project with Aibileen, she asks Aibileen about the situation regarding Constantine because she wants to try to get in touch with her. Skeeter learns that her mother fired Constantine and is very angry with her mother's decision. She confronts her mother who tells her that Constantine had a daughter who caused a scene at the house. This prompted Constantine to leave and move north to the area near her daughter. She died a while later.
Constantine moves to Chicago with her daughter, Lulabelle. And then she dies.
She's dead. She was fired by Skeeter's mother, moved to Chicago and died three weeks (p. 365) after moving there.
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