Study Guide

The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

The Help Summary

Summary

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is a novel about black maids in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962. The black maids work with Skeeter Phelan, a white woman, to create a book depicting their lives. The chapters are narrated through the eyes of three main characters: Aibileen, Minnie, and Skeeter. Descriptions of historical events of the early activities of thecivil rights movement are peppered throughout the novel, as are interactions between the maids and their white employers. The novel is filled with details reminiscent of early-1960s culture in the United States: color televisions replacing black-and-white models, daytime programs with detergent and cleaning product advertisements, and the introduction of the miniskirt and rock-and-roll music add to the authenticity of the background and help make the characters' motivations believable.

Chapter 1 situates the novel in 1962 and is narrated by Aibileen, a black maid working for Mrs. Leefolt by taking care of a toddler, Mae Mobley. Aibileen loves Mae Mobley, as the reader can see by the tenderhearted way she speaks to her, and all the extra care and time she gives to her. Aibileen had a child of her own once, by the name of Treelore, who was accidentally killed at age twenty-four, in an accident at the logging mill. Aibileen shares her story of the logging incident and how she reacted afterward. She was completely devastated by her son's death until her friend Minnie helped her; and she began working with Mrs. Leefolt, taking care of Mae Mobley. This is where the reader learns why Aibileen immersed herself into caring for the child of a white woman; she transferred all her love onto her employer's children.

Aibileen meets Skeeter at Mrs. Leefolt's home, who asks her about cleaning difficult items because she (Skeeter) will be writing a newspaper column on household cleaning. She notices how respectful Skeeter is of her and feels suspicious, but she likes Skeeter and feels she can trust her. In her prayers, she mentions Skeeter. She says:

The thing is though, if I start prayin' for Miss Skeeter, I know that conversation gone continue the next time I see her. And the next..cause that's they way prayer do. It's like electricity, it keeps things going.

Aibileen is very spiritual and her beliefs have kept her hopeful throughout her difficult life. The reader can see that she is a powerful woman.

In chapters 1 and 2, the interactions between the black maids and their white employers are explored. For example, Miss Hilly sits at the head of the Junior League, which represents the high class women in Jackson; she is attempting to institute laws on separate bathrooms for blacks and whites, even in private homes. She wants to go so far as to making it a law so it would be a crime for owners to allow blacks to use white bathrooms. Skeeter thinks this is ridiculous.

Aibileen talks to her friend, Minnie, on the phone who tells her she was fired for stealing but that it is not true. She is worried she will never get another job in Jackson because of Miss Hilly's gossip. The reader can see through the character's dialog and actions how the white women have social power over the black maids by constructing hurtful gossip, to prevent the maids from gaining employment. Most of the white women use their power to control their maids, but Skeeter is different.

Chapters 3 and 4 are narrated by Minnie. She goes for a job interview at Celia Foote's home. She realizes that Celia Foote has not heard the gossip from Hilly about her stealing, so she is relieved. Mrs. Foote is very incompetent as a housekeeper and cook. She wants to hire Minnie but keeps it a secret from his husband so he thinks she is doing the work. Minnie does not like Celia's secrecy but takes the job because it pays $2.00 an hour, which is twice the salary she received at her past position.

Chapters 5 and 6 are narrated by Skeeter. Skeeter is the editor of the Junior League newsletter. She finds herself very different from the other whites her age in Jackson, especially on the civil rights issues. She thinks of the black maids as her equals and believes that the black maid who raised her, Constantine, was more like a mother.

She reminisces a lot about Constantine; it bothers her why Constantine left her household as the maid so abruptly without any explanation. She thinks often about her and even asks Aibilene why Constantine left Jackson unexpectedly. Aibileen says she was fired. Skeeter is confused because her mother told her Constantine left to join her family in Chicago. Skeeter confronts her mother. Her mother gives a lame excuse which Skeeter interprets as prejudice.

Chapter 7 is narrated by Aibileen, who is working at Mrs. Leefolt's home and taking care of Mae Mobley. She and the child are close, almost like mother and daughter. Mrs. Leefolt is strict and judgmental. Aibileen remembers her son Treelore. The anniversary of his death is that day, so she pretends to be sick so she can go home. The next day, Skeeter shows up unexpectedly at Aibileen's house on the poor side of town. She is cautious, wondering why a white woman would come to her neighborhood. Miss Skeeter asks her to help her with the book. She wants Aibileen to tell her about life as a black maid in Jackson. Aibileen politely refuses since blacks are being killed for much less on a daily basis, like using the white's toilet.

Chapters 8 and 9 are narrated by Skeeter. She tells her impressions of Aibileen's neighborhood as she approaches in her Cadillac. The neighbor's are cold and Aibileen only looks down at the ground when she is speaking. Skeeter does not realize why she is so uncomfortable. She returns to her home and receives a phone call from the publisher who likes her idea about a book on the black maids. She is excited. Then she goes to the Wednesday bridge club at Hilly's home; and she goes into the kitchen to talk to Aibileen. She offers Aibileen money in an envelope for helping her with the Miss Myrna letters on housekeeping, but Aibileen thinks it is a bribe to work on the book so she refuses. In chapter 9, it is the day of Skeeter's date. The date begins at 6 p.m. at Hilly's home but since Skeeter has not told her mother, she has to leave in regular work clothes; and she has to take her father's truck with a tractor on it. When she gets to Hilly's, her date, Stuart, has been waiting. He is drunk and sees her truck and tractor and thinks it is the funniest thing he has ever seen....

(The entire section is 2639 words.)

The Help Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1 Summary

Aibileen

August 1962

Aibileen lost her son, Treelore, when he was twenty-four years old. He had plans to get married and was writing a book about being a black man living and working in Mississippi when he slipped and fell at work and got run over by a tractor-trailer that did not see him lying on the ground. It took Aibileen five months to get herself out of bed and put on her white uniform and gold cross necklace so she could go serve Mrs. Elizabeth Leefolt (“Miss” Leefolt), a scrawny twenty-three-year-old lady who has just had a baby girl named Mae Mobley. Something in Aibileen is different now, though; something has changed. She does not “feel so accepting anymore.”

From the beginning, Mae Mobley is a cranky baby for her mother, though Aibileen has no trouble at all with the child. Miss Leefolt is not an engaged mother; she is ill-equipped and disinterested in raising her own child, though she shows signs of jealousy when her daughter prefers the servant. Every fourth Wednesday of the month is bridge club for Miss Leefolt, and there is a routine preparation of the house as well as the food. The house is small, with only two bathrooms, and it is evident to Aibileen that the Leefolts are not rich.

The bridge club includes three other women: “Miss” Hilly Holbrook and her mother, “Miss” Walter, as well as “Miss” Skeeter Phelan. Miss Hilly lives only ten feet from the Leefolts but drives to bridge club; she is selfish and a bit greedy, and she is not nice to her mother. Miss Hilly is a woman who dresses well and is clearly the woman in charge. Miss Walter has a bit of palsy and eats very little. Miss Skeeter is tall, thin, does not quite know how to dress, and has the appearance of shyness; she and Miss Hilly are about the same age as Miss Leefolt.

After Aibileen has served the women and seen to Mae Mobley, she continues her chores within earshot of the...

(The entire section is 678 words.)

Chapter 2 Summary

Aibileen

Jackson, Mississippi, has a population of 200,000. Six days a week, Aibileen crosses the Woodrow Wilson Bridge by bus to the neighborhood called Belhaven, where Miss Leefolt and her white friends live. The white people have plenty of room in which to sprawl; the colored part of town has nowhere to grow. Since it cannot spread out, that part of town “just gets thicker.” The bus that afternoon carries nothing but colored maids going back home at the end of their workdays. Minny is regaling everyone with the story of Miss Walters, “her white lady,” whom she found standing naked on her front porch. When the others call the woman crazy, Minny defends Miss Walters—no one can make fun except...

(The entire section is 1257 words.)

Chapter 3 Summary

Minny

As she stands on the back porch of a country mansion, Minny Jackson is determined to keep her mouth shut, to do whatever it takes to get this job. A woman who resembles Marilyn Monroe answers the door and introduces herself as Celia Rae Foote. She is covered in flour from her hair to her false eyelashes to her “tacky pink pantsuit.” Inside, the kitchen is in even worse shape.

Miss Celia explains that she is not very good in the kitchen. Minny has to bite her tongue to refrain from making a sarcastic comment. Miss Celia is twenty-two or twenty-three (ten or fifteen years Minny’s junior) and is wearing no shoes. This makes her a “fool” in Minny’s eyes, someone from way in the...

(The entire section is 1228 words.)

Chapter 4 Summary

Minny

Minny spends her first week at Miss Celia’s scrubbing the house until there is nothing left to scrub it with; the second week she scrubs it again because “it’s like the dirt grew back.” The third week Minny is satisfied and begins to settle into a routine. Miss Celia always seems surprised that Minny comes back every day, and Minny enjoys the quiet. (It is unlike her house, which contains five kids, a husband, and neighbors.) Each day has its task, and since there are no children to tend to, there is time every day for a cooking lesson with Miss Celia. These are the only times she rouses herself from her bed. Every few days she sneaks up to the second floor for five minutes (where there...

(The entire section is 808 words.)

Chapter 5 Summary

Miss Skeeter

Skeeter is driving her mother’s Cadillac too fast on a gravel road, but she does not care that she is damaging the car as she thinks about what Hilly said to her today during bridge club. She, Elizabeth, and Hilly have been friends since elementary school, and they were close. At Ole Miss, she and Hilly were roommates until Hilly left to get married. But today Hilly threatened to kick Skeeter out of the League. Skeeter does not care so much about the League; she is hurt because her friend is willing to cast her aside so easily.

Skeeter pulls into the lane of Longleaf, her family’s cotton plantation, and slows down so her mother will not see how fast she has been driving....

(The entire section is 1306 words.)

Chapter 6 Summary

Skeeter

One hot September morning, Skeeter treks to the mailbox at the end of their drive and finds a letter addressed to Miss Eugenia Phelan. It is from the senior editor at Harper & Row Publishers, Elaine Stein. She tells Skeeter she is impressed at her ambition at wanting to work for such a prestigious company with absolutely no experience. She recommends that Skeeter take whatever job she can find at her local newspaper and, in her free time, write about anything that disturbs her—“particularly if it bothers no one else.” Underneath the typed letter is a handwritten note offering to look at her writing and give her advice because someone once did the same for her. Skeeter runs back to the...

(The entire section is 1402 words.)

Chapter 7 Summary

Aibileen

It is the middle of October, and in the mornings the toilet seat in Aibileen’s bathroom gives her a start when she sits down. There is no cross-through to the garage, so she must go outside to use the bathroom even in the cold weather. Aibileen is sitting on the back steps eating her lunch when Mae Mobley joins her with her half-eaten hamburger. The little girl would rather be out here with the maid than inside with her mother, who looks at everything in the room but her. Aibileen thinks about other children she has raised and is satisfied they have “grown up fine.”

Miss Leefolt begins hollering for Mae Mobley to get back in her high chair and complaining that her friends’...

(The entire section is 1497 words.)

Chapter 8 Summary

Miss Skeeter

Three weeks ago, Miss Skeeter got a phone call from Elaine Stein, the editor from New York. She took the call in the pantry, a place she always used to go for privacy. Skeeter had sent her idea for a book to Miss Stein, telling her she already had one working and respected maid who has agreed to talk to her—which was, of course, a lie. Skeeter explained that everyone has heard the white woman’s point of view about having black maids, but no one talks about the fact that these black maids raised children who then, ironically, grew up to hire them. Miss Stein called to tell her the idea had merit, but she used to live in Atlanta and doubted any black women in Mississippi would be willing...

(The entire section is 600 words.)

Chapter 9 Summary

Miss Skeeter

It is Saturday, the day of Skeeter’s date with Stuart Whitworth. After another session under the Shinolator, she goes shopping for the flattest shoes she can find and a dress that flatters her tall, skinny figure. She charges it all to her mother, who is always begging her to do more shopping for clothes that are flattering for “her size.” Her stomach is actually in knots, and Skeeter is afraid to hope for something she thought she would never have. Her new hair and dress give her hope.

Four months ago Hilly showed her a picture of Stuart. He was handsome, but Skeeter was intimidated to learn that for years he had dated Patricia van Devender (the girl named “Most...

(The entire section is 1066 words.)

Chapter 10 Summary

Minny

It is the first day of December, and Minny can only think of what will happen on Christmas Eve: Miss Celia will tell her husband she has a maid. Although she is not sure what will happen after he is told, she knows she has more dignity than to die standing on a white woman’s toilet. The man she saw was not Johnny Foote (it was just the meter man), but Miss Celia was still so shaken afterward that she could not even measure salt into a teaspoon.

On Monday, Minny cannot stop thinking about poor Robert, the boy who was beaten and blinded for using a white bathroom. As she prepares to go to the store, Minny and Miss Celia make the grocery list. After three months of cooking lessons, the...

(The entire section is 1188 words.)

Chapter 11 Summary

Miss Skeeter

While most of the world is still in the throes of winter, the first signs of spring are appearing in Jackson, Mississippi. Skeeter is dressed in black and has a black scarf draped over her head. Tonight she is meeting Aibileen for their first interview, but she tells her mother she is meeting friends from church. This meeting has been delayed for a month. First the holidays kept Aibileen busy doing all of Elizabeth’s Christmas preparations, and then Aibileen got the flu. Skeeter is afraid Elaine Stein will have lost interest or forgotten her offer to read her work.

After parking in front of an abandoned house three houses away from Aibileen’s, Skeeter walks quickly to her...

(The entire section is 1089 words.)

Chapter 12 Summary

Miss Skeeter

For the next two weeks, Skeeter leaves the house every other night to write with Aibileen; she tells her mother she is going to feed the hungry. (Her mother’s only admonition is to be sure to wash her hands thoroughly, with soap, afterward.) The two women spend hours reading and typing, and at first Skeeter is disappointed that Aibileen is doing all the writing and she is merely editing; however, she knows she will do the writing for the other maids with whom she talks—if Elaine Stein likes what she reads. Skeeter tells the maid her writing is clear and honest. That comes from writing to God, Aibileen says.

Before Skeeter was born, Aibileen spent a week picking cotton at...

(The entire section is 1485 words.)

Chapter 13 Summary

Miss Skeeter

In the next two weeks, Minny, Aibileen, and Skeeter meet regularly to record Minny’s story. She always speaks to Aibileen, not Skeeter, and nearly always storms out in a rage. Occasionally Minny lapses into stories about Miss Celia and then stops herself and tells Skeeter to leave Miss Celia out of her writing. Minny likes to talk about two things: her fury at white people and food. One day as she talks about preparing a meal with a white baby in one arm, Minny says none of this has to do with civil rights and all Skeeter is writing about is life. Skeeter pauses and agrees, saying she hopes that is what she is doing. Minny storms off again, saying she has more important things to worry...

(The entire section is 1412 words.)

Chapter 14 Summary

Aibileen

It has been difficult having Miss Skeeter and Minny both in her living room talking about Negro women and working for white women. There have been no battles, but it has been close. Miss Skeeter shows Aibileen the list of reasons Miss Hilly gives for colored bathrooms, and it feels to her like something the Ku Klux Klan might have written. When Minny gets upset and is about to leave—for good this time—Aibileen shows her the list. She takes her time reading it, and then she looks at Miss Skeeter “long and heavy.” It is the motivation she needs to continue, but she warns Miss Skeeter to stay out of her personal life.

Aibileen fixes lunch for Miss Leefolt and Mae Mobley, and...

(The entire section is 1405 words.)

Chapter 15 Summary

Aibileen

Not one word is spoken about the shooting or its aftermath in the Leefolt home. There has been no word from Miss Hilly, and Aibileen is still sick with worry. The day after the funeral, Miss Fredericks (Miss Leefolt’s mother) stops at the Leefolts’ and simply walks into the house. Aibileen is ironing, and Miss Leefolt gives her a look that tells her to stop what she is doing, pick up the scattered toys, and wipe the jelly off Mae Mobley’s face. Miss Fredericks drives an expensive car and does a lot of shopping, so she probably has a lot more money than the Leefolts do. Now she demands that her daughter take her to the fanciest restaurant in town, and Aibileen knows the older woman will...

(The entire section is 1013 words.)

Chapter 16 Summary

Aibileen

About a year after Treelore died, Aibileen began to attend the Community Concerns Meetings held at her church to help her pass the time. In recent days, though, the meetings have been more about civil rights than keeping the streets clean. Now, since Medgar Evers’s assassination a week ago, there is a lot of frustration, especially by the young people who have not yet built up a callus to injustice. The meetings are held every night, and there is crying and yelling because people are angry. Aibileen is here tonight hoping to find more maids to talk to since it seems they will be able to continue their project.

Thirty-five maids have refused. Aibileen is beginning to feel she is...

(The entire section is 585 words.)

Chapter 17 Summary

Minny

After nine months of working for Miss Celia, Minny is still not sure if her employer has something wrong with her body or her mind. She spends most of her time in bed, about which Minny used to be glad. But now that she has met Mister Johnny, though, Minny is ready to get Miss Celia up and “in shape.” When she refuses to get up, Minny uses her secret weapon and asks when she is going to tell her husband she has a maid. This always gets Miss Celia moving (and sometimes Minny does it just for her own entertainment). At Christmas, Miss Celia cried and begged for more time, and Minny gave in to her tears.

Mister Johnny has tried more than once to arrange for Miss Hilly and her friends...

(The entire section is 1265 words.)

Chapter 18 Summary

Minny

All the way to Miss Celia’s house, Minny practices her apology. When she arrives, Miss Celia tells Minny good morning; however, she is not feeling well and goes straight to her room. Minny is not sure what to do, so she does her work as if she still has the job and hopes she is not being foolish. That afternoon Miss Celia does not come out of her bedroom for her cooking lesson, so Minny goes and finds her shut behind the bathroom door. Minny hollers that she will be working in the bedroom, but there is no answer. She tidies the room and finds a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird on Mister Johnny’s nightstand. She is amazed that there is a book with colored people in it and wonders if Miss...

(The entire section is 935 words.)

Chapter 19 Summary

Miss Skeeter

It is 1963 and Longleaf still has no air conditioning, so Skeeter sleeps on a cot on the back porch. She remembers sleeping out here when Constantine stayed with them, and again Skeeter misses her terribly. She has no writing to do because she is caught up on Minny’s stories and Yule May is not quite ready to talk to her. The heat and racial tension are making things uneasy for everyone. The Life magazine in front of her tells the story of a black teacher’s death. He was a Mississippi man who dared to speak out against their racist governor. She realizes how foolish she had been three months ago; she had not realized the risk the maids would be taking by talking to her.

...

(The entire section is 1495 words.)

Chapter 20 Summary

Miss Skeeter

The Phelans are on the steps of State Senator Whitworth’s house, and Skeeter is begging her mother to remember what they talked about. Her mother agrees not to mention her cotton trust fund—“unless it’s appropriate.” Skeeter looks at her parents and thinks they must look like “country bumpkins.” But the door opens and it is too late to do anything about it. Mrs. Whitworth is dressed in a suit similar to Skeeter’s and says she is delighted to meet them all. She meet’s Skeeter’s gaze directly; her eyes are blue and beautiful, like cold water. When she smiles and slides her hand down Skeeter’s arm, a prong of her ring scratches the younger woman’s skin and Skeeter...

(The entire section is 1133 words.)

Chapter 21 Summary

Miss Skeeter

A cooling unit has finally been installed at Longleaf. It is located in the relaxing room, and it is there because the doctor recommended it. Skeeter’s mother is tired all the time and her ulcers are getting worse; the doctor says keeping her cool would at least make her more comfortable. Skeeter has not told her parents that Stuart broke up with her, and she longs for some relief from the heat to cool her “singed and hurt” heart.

The feel of the cool air is glorious, and all three of the Phelans stand and enjoy the new contraption. Skeeter’s father turns the knob to “3,” the highest setting on the unit. It runs for a moment and then everything goes black. It blows...

(The entire section is 971 words.)

Chapter 22 Summary

Aibileen

Today is Mae Mobley’s third birthday. The child is in a “big-girl bed” now because the nursery is being prepared for the new baby. She is not very pretty. Aibileen does not mind, but she always tries to make her prettier for her mother. Aibileen fixes her Baby Girl a special bowl of grits and has her blow out three candles she brought from home just for the occasion. Miss Leefolt is off getting her hair done, but she has purchased a gift: the giant doll Mae Mobley has wanted from the television commercials.

Aibileen begins to bake two birthday cakes. Miss Leefolt wants chocolate and assumes Mae Mobley wants it too, but the maid knows the toddler loves strawberry best of...

(The entire section is 1351 words.)

Chapter 23 Summary

Aibileen

The summer is hot and the world is mesmerized by the sight of 250,000 people listening to Martin Luther King Jr. share his dream—and 60,000 of them are white. In September, a church in Birmingham is bombed and four little colored girls are killed, yet life must go on.

Miss Skeeter looks thinner and tries to look like living without friends is not hard, but Aibileen can see that it is. In October, Miss Hilly tells Miss Leefolt (who is hugely pregnant) that she sent a thank-you note to Miss Skeeter for all the toilets, which they have been installing in people’s garages and sheds for their maids.

Aibileen still makes up stores to tell Mae Mobley. The little girl loves...

(The entire section is 801 words.)

Chapter 24 Summary

Minny

Minny waits nervously for Miss Celia to come home. That morning she squeezed herself into her tightest pink sweater, said she was going to Miss Leefolt’s before she lost her nerve, and drove off with her skirt hanging out of the door. Shortly after that, Aibileen called to tell her everything she heard. Minny is sure it will “take those crackling hens” just a few minutes to figure out her deception. Now all she can do is wait for Miss Celia to return.

Minny wants to know several things: Will Aibileen get fired for helping her get this job? Did Miss Hilly tell Miss Celia her lies about Minny being a thief? Did Miss Hilly tell her about the Terrible Awful Thing Minny did to get...

(The entire section is 1500 words.)

Chapter 25 Summary

The Benefit

The Jackson Junior League Annual Ball and Benefit (“the Benefit”) begins with cocktails at seven o’clock at the Robert E. Lee Hotel. The doors of the banquet hall will open at eight o’clock and dinner will begin at nine. The proceeds from the auction will go to the Poor Starving Children of Africa, and the dance floor and bandstand are opposite the podium from which Miss Hilly Holbrook will give her speech. The husbands may get drunk but none of the wives will do so. They are all hostesses this night, and they know Hilly is the shining star.

Hilly is dressed in a maroon taffeta gown, and everything but her fingers and face are covered. All the ladies show no more than a...

(The entire section is 1363 words.)

Chapter 26 Summary

Minny

The morning after the Benefit, Minny is tired and sore. Her daughter, Sugar, who also worked at the event, is counting her earnings: nine dollars and fifty cents. The phone rings; it is Mister Johnny calling to tell Minny that Miss Celia had a difficult time last night. He asks her to take good care of her since he will be out of town all week. He will come back if he is needed; all she has to do is call him. Minny promises to look after her and tells him Miss Celia will be all right.

Minny did not see the end-of-the-night events, but she did hear about them. When Sugar started to make fun of Miss Celia, Minny smacked her, yanked her into a corner, and told her she was never to speak...

(The entire section is 1317 words.)

Chapter 27 Summary

Miss Skeeter

Longleaf is quiet all the time now. No one calls and Skeeter’s mother is much worse. President Kennedy was assassinated two weeks ago, and Skeeter feels that it has been long enough to call Elaine Stein. The editor answers her own phone but sounds as if she regrets doing so when she hears who it is. Skeeter tells her the book will be ready to send by the second week in January, but there is no response at the other end of the line. The editor finally speaks and tells her January is too late, that the final editor’s meeting of the year is on December twenty-first and the manuscript must arrive before then. If not, it will go into “The Pile”—a place no author wants a book to go. She...

(The entire section is 2168 words.)

Chapter 28 Summary

Miss Skeeter

After she hangs up the phone, Skeeter notices the doctor’s car in their driveway and waits for him to come from her mother’s room. He looks at her and seems to be taking her measure, and then he tells Skeeter her mother has cancer in the lining of her stomach. It is both shocking and familiar news. Her mother refuses to stay in the hospital, so the next few months might get very difficult for the family. Skeeter is appalled at the idea that her mother might live only two months, but her mother is a fighter and is likely to outlive that prognosis. As soon as Skeeter enters the room, her mother knows the doctor has told her and tells her to stop crying. Life will go on. Carlton will...

(The entire section is 1493 words.)

Chapter 29 Summary

Aibileen

It is Labor Day and it is hot—so hot that for the first time in forty-one years of service, Aibileen does not wear her stockings to work. Surprisingly, Miss Leefolt tells her that is fine. It is bridge club day, and it is almost too hot for Miss Leefolt to give any orders. Outside, Mae Mobley is playing in the sprinkler with her brother, Ross, who is almost one. Usually Mae Mobley is in preschool every morning, but this is a holiday, so she is home. Both women look out the window with love at the children, and Aibileen wonders if things might be beginning to change. After all, Negroes can now sit at the counter at Walgreens.

Suddenly everything changes. Miss Leefolt starts...

(The entire section is 1148 words.)

Chapter 30 Summary

Minny

Minny is outraged at the book reviewer who says the book may be about Jackson and flips off the television. Aibileen’s line is busy, and Minny wonders how long it will be before Miss Hilly reads the last chapter of the book, the chapter about her. She had better read it quickly so she can dispel the rumors that the story is actually set in Jackson. Minny knows Miss Celia will not fire her, for their hatred for Miss Hilly is the one thing they have in common. But once she fails to get Minny fired, there is no telling what Miss Hilly will do next. At least it will be a private war; the others should not be involved.

Out the window, Miss Celia is working in the garden; she spends most...

(The entire section is 734 words.)

Chapter 31 Summary

Aibileen

Every day, Aibileen finds an excuse to check Miss Leefolt’s nightstand to see if her bookmark has moved. It has been five days, and she is only on page fourteen; there are two hundred and thirty-five pages to go. Miss Leefolt is a slow reader. Even so, Aibileen wants to tell her that the chapter she is reading right now is about Miss Skeeter and Constantine—and that chapter two will be about her.

All week Aibileen is nervous and jumpy, especially on the day Miss Hilly comes over to work with Miss Leefolt on the Benefit. They occasionally look up and ask her to bring them something, and twice Miss Hilly comes to the kitchen to give further instruction to Ernestine, her one-armed...

(The entire section is 557 words.)

Chapter 32 Summary

Minny

Another day passes, and in her head Minny can hear Miss Hilly reading the lines of her book. The scream is coming. Aibileen told her about the conversation she overheard at the grocery store, but nothing has happened since. Leroy still looks at her as if he knows something, but he has not said anything. Minny is startled when she looks up and sees Aibileen at her screen door; her friend gestures for her to come outside quietly, so Minny extricates herself from her family and joins her at the side of the house. Aibileen is visibly upset.

Miss Hilly’s maid, Ernestine, called Aibileen and said Miss Hilly is telling all the white people she knows to fire their maids based on the stories...

(The entire section is 420 words.)

Chapter 33 Summary

Miss Skeeter

Miss Skeeter wakes from her sleep with her heart pounding in her chest. She wonders what she heard that awakened her. She gets out of bed and listens, but it was not her mother. It was a high-pitched scream, like the sound of ripping material. She sits back down and tries to still her beating heart.

Nothing is happening as they planned it—people seem to have figured out quickly that the book is about Jackson. Skeeter knew Hilly was a slow reader, but she forgot. In fact, Hilly is probably lying about how far along she is in her reading. Things seem to have gotten out of control; one maid has been fired, and it is likely that more will be fired yet. Skeeter thinks it is a great...

(The entire section is 1499 words.)

Chapter 34 Summary

Aibileen

It is bridge day at Miss Leefolt’s, and everything is ready. Aibileen hears the doorbell. Unprepared to face Miss Hilly after what she said to Miss Skeeter last night, Aibileen goes to her bathroom and sits. She is distressed about what will happen to Mae Mobley if she has to leave; she will grow up in a world where black is a dirty color and her mother is cold and unkind to her. Tomorrow Aibileen will tell her Baby Girl good-bye, just in case.

Aibileen gets home late and stops in to see Minny. The house is quiet, and they talk about a few good things happening because of the book. Aibileen is impatient, but Minny is calm because she thinks “maybe things is happening just how...

(The entire section is 1504 words.)

Lori Steinbach, Ed. Scott Locklear