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The book project that Skeeter, Minny, and Aibileen work on (with the help of many local maids in Jackson) stands at the center of this novel. Much of the novel is structured around this book project, with the rising action, climax, and falling action being largely defined by the state of the book project.
Though the book project itself does not represent the central set of conflicts in the novel, it does relate to these conflicts and expose them. For this reason, we can track the rising action, climax and falling action in relation to the book project.
The rising action of the novel occurs as Skeeter and Aibileen recruit help on the book project, while also navigating the difficulties of life in Jackson. Most of the novel's episodes of tension, action and minor conflict take place as part of the rising action: Aibileen potty training Mae Mobley; Skeeter's enmity with Hilly; Skeeter's relationship with Stewart; Celia's pregnancy and miscarriage; the Benefit, etc.
After the Benefit, the novel quickly heads toward the climax and the book project is published. The climax of the novel takes place over the days following the publication of the book. Skeeter, Minny, and Aibileen wait for the book to impact the community. This is the high point of tension in the novel and soon the central conflicts of the text are fully articulated. Hilly confronts Skeeter and backs down. Aibileen is fired from her job. Minny leaves her husband.
Each of these events is an element of a rather large climax in the novel, leading to the resolution of the story lines of each of the three main characters.
The falling action actually begins to take place before the climax has been fully articulated, as Skeeter's conflicts are resolved before those of Aibileen and Minny.
The falling action essentially considers the outcome of the book project as it has improved conditions and understanding for some fo the maids in Jackson. The book also opens the eyes of many of the maids' employers.
The writing of the book helps to bridge the differences between the white women and the black maids; and they all worked together to dissolve that line between “us and them.”
As Aibileen is fired and Hilly still commands some degree of power, the positive outcome of the book project is not absolute.
Another result of the book's success is Skeeter's move to New York. She has exhausted all the good will of her former friends in Jackson and has no avenues through which to pursue her ambitions.
Aibileen tells her to go to New York and “find her life.”
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