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The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, explores the relationships between white women and their black maids. In chapter twenty-four of the novel, Minny and Celia are faced with an unusual incident which demonstrates their relationship.
Minny has not been working for Miss Celia for very long, and their relationship is not quite like anything she has ever experienced. Celia often refers to herself as "white trash" and does not really understand the "proper" protocols of having a maid; Minny is used to working for a demanding, imperious woman and is still uncomfortable with the familiarity with which Celia treats her.
One day a naked man appears outside their window, and when Minny hollers at him to leave, he goes on the attack. He throws a rock through the window, and Minny knows she must do whatever she can to protect the house and Miss Celia. She locks everything before the man can do any damage. The man calls her a "fat nigger" and Minny chases him with a knife and a broom, warning Miss Celia to lock the door.
A bit of a scuffle ensues as Minny beats the man with the broom, and the man takes advantage of a momentary lapse and hits Minnie hard on the side of her face which already has a cut (courtesy of her husband). In that moment, Celia arrives with a fireplace poker and nearly kills the man before Minny stops her. It is almost a miracle that the man can even walk, but he stumbles away and Celia is concerned for Minny's injuries.
This is an incident which reveals several things about each of these women and their relationship. First, Minny is willing to risk her own life to protect Miss Celia, which is not particularly surprising; what is shocking is that Miss Celia is willing to do the same for Minny. Theirs was a non-traditional employer-employee relationship before this incident, and this is another indicator that they truly care for one another. Clearly Celia is unmoved by color and sees Minny as a friend who needed protecting and reverted to her “white-trash girl” in order to get the job done.
This is a profound moment of equality, humanity, and friendship between a white woman and a black woman, a rare occurrence in this town at this time. When Aibileen hears about the incident from Minny, she says, "kindness has no boundaries." Minny says,
That's what I love about Aibileen, she can take the most complicated things in life and wrap them up so small and simple, they'll fit right in your pocket.
This simple (but painful) incident is a reminder that everyone is human and color does not matter.
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