How has Aibileen's character changed throughout Kathryn Stockett's The Help?

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Aiblieen is a frightened woman at the beginning of the novel. She is subservient to the white family she works for, as the cultural norms of the time dictated (the novel takes place in the early 1960s), and she is very reluctant to work with Miss Skeeter on her book project for fear of the ramifications. In chapter seven, when Miss Skeeter first introduces Aibileen to the idea of her book, Aibileen responds with fear:

I look around. We out here in the wide open. Don't she know how dangerous this could be, talking about this while the whole world can see us?

When Skeeter tries to convince her that the interviews would be secret, Aibileen cites the incident of a black boy who was beaten with a tire iron that very morning simply for using a white bathroom. She refuses to even think about the offer at that time.

Aibileen changes her mind after Hilly's bathroom initiative, in which she wanted all maids to have their own bathroom in the houses they worked in so that white families wouldn't be subject to "their diseases." Hilly also accuses maids of stealing, and this is enough to inspire Aibileen to cooperate with Skeeter at the end of chapter thirteen, though she is still fearful about when/where they will meet and whether or not she can trust Skeeter. In addition to her fear, Aibileen is still in deep mourning for her son Treelore, who died three years earlier.

By the end of Stockett's novel, Aibileen is growing in internal strength. She is anticipating the release of the book, which has been picked up by a publisher. They've been warned to keep their expectations of the book's sales low, but Aibileen is proud of her part in the book and anxious to see her work in print.

The next day at work, all I can think of is how stores is putting my book on the shelves.

Aibileen's pride grows when her church recognizes her contributions to the book and agrees to support her in any way they can. With the money coming in from book sales, Aibileen grows more and more confident. She is strong for Minny and advises her to leave her abusive husband. At the end of the novel, Hilly Holbrook convinces Elizabeth Leefolt to fire Aibileen, and Aibileen has the courage to confront her. She gives back every threat Hilly hands her, standing up to Hilly (or any white woman) for the first time. She has found her voice. She is a dynamic character who changes from a frightened, subservient, grieving mother to a strong and courageous woman who knows and demonstrates her own worth.

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At the beginning of the novel, Aibileen is a bitter woman. Her only son has died in a workplace accident at a lumber mill. (In the movie version of this story, his accident has a more clearly-defined race-related element.) She acquiesces enough to the cultural divide in Jackson to get a job as a maid for the Leefolt household. She maintains a respectable distance when dealing with her white employers however, even though she would love to tell Elizabeth what she thinks of her parenting skills – and lack of them. She’s very fond of baby Mae Mobley, and she’s very devoted to her church. Aibileen writes her prayers every night in her journal.

When Skeeter needs help writing the Miss Myrna column for the local newspaper, she asks Aibileen for advice to answer the housekeeping questions. They begin to meet – first at the Leefolt house, and then at Aibileen’s house. She had never had a white person in her home before. She eventually begins to get comfortable confiding in Skeeter, as they expand their meetings to include working on a book about the black maids of Jackson. Aibileen is very pleased with the results of the book that they compile and get published. By the last chapter in the book, Aibileen feels confident enough to tell off Hilly Holbrook to her face. She vows to keep on writing, even though she has now lost her job because of Hilly’s undue influence on Elizabeth. Aibileen has grown in terms of respect, confidence, and feelings of self-worth.

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