What is the conflict between Hilly and Skeeter in The Help?

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Although they have been friends nearly all their lives, Hilly and Skeeter represent quite different perspectives about social justice—and that is the source of their conflict.

Skeeter is not stuck in the traditional ways of racial discrimination that abound in their hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. Through her loving relationship with Constantine during her formative years and now through an open relationship with Aibileen as she begins collecting stories for publication, Skeeter becomes an advocate for civil rights in her community.

Hilly, on the other hand, represents the traditional and very segregated views which dominated upper-class white society during this time in the South—and maybe especially in Jackson, Mississippi. Hilly wants her black maid to do most of the household work for her so that she is free for ongoing social engagements. While her "help" cleans her dishes and prepares her food, she doesn't want them sharing her bathroom and makes it her personal mission to ensure that each family in Jackson builds a separate restroom for their black maids to use. In a great (and humorous) act of defiance toward this belief, Skeeter covers Hilly's lawn in toilets as a practical joke, which fairly solidifies the conflict between the two former friends.

Interestingly, Hilly tries to convince the town (and maybe herself) that she is not racist through her fundraising efforts:

“Hilly.” I just need to hear her say it. “Just who is all that pound cake money being raised for, anyway?”

She rolls her eyes. “The Poor Starving Children of Africa?”

I wait for her to catch the irony of this, that she’ll send money to colored people overseas, but not across town.

Unfortunately, Hilly does not see the irony in this situation and furthers her stance by clarifying why they must send actual food and not money to Africa:

You cannot give these tribal people money ... There is no Jitney 14 Grocery in the Ogaden Desert. And how would we even know if they're even feeding their kids with it? They're likely to go to the local voodoo tent and get a satanic tattoo with our money.

Hilly thus is symbolic of the traditionally racist views of Jackson during this era, and Skeeter is symbolic of progressive actions, bringing to light the ways upper-class white women have taken advantage of their black maids and trying to ignite change. The two are positioned for conflict because of their polar opposite views on civil rights.

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Kathryn Stockett's novel, The Help, is about African American women working as maids in white households during the 1960s in Mississippi. The story is mainly about maids, Aibileen and Minnie, and Skeeter, a white woman who returns home from college to be a writer.

Skeeter grew up in Mississippi and realizes that the maids in her household are treated differently than the white employees. She decides to make this public knowledge and enlists the help of Aibileen and Minnie to help her tell the truth. Skeeter rustles feathers of her friends and family members when she decides to do this. One person who is bothered by Skeeter's story is her friend Hilly.

Hilly Holbrook is a white woman who does not treat her maids very kindly. She gets one of her maids arrested for stealing after refusing to loan her money for her son. Hilly also wants to start a "Home Help Sanitation Initiative" which would require all black employees to use separate bathrooms when working in white households. Hilly asks Skeeter to publish an ad for this initiative in the local paper. Because Skeeter disagrees with Hilly about the decency of her initiative, Skeeter publishes an ad for a clothing drive instead. When loads of clothing arrive at Hilly's house, Hilly becomes upset and ends her friendship with Skeeter—something that makes Skeeter happy.

The main conflict between these two friends is a major difference in opinion. Hilly believes that black maids should not be treated as humans. Skeeter believes in treating everyone as worthy and will stand up for what she believes is right, even if it means losing a friend.

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Now that Skeeter has earned her college degree and is planning on becoming a journalist, she discovers that she doesn’t have as much in common with her old female friends as she used to. Skeeter is beginning to accept the black maids as worthy individuals and equals. She doesn’t like Hilly’s “Home Help Sanitation Initiative,” which would require white households to have extra dedicated bathrooms to be used only by black employees. Hilly erroneously believes that she would get some kind of disease by sharing a bathroom with an African American. She demands that Skeeter put the text of the Initiative in the Jackson Junior League newsletter. Skeeter puts her off, probably hoping that the issue will go away. When Hilly is finally adamant about it being printed, Skeeter sabotages it by “accidentally” mixing up the text with the request for donations for the clothing drive. Hilly ends up with dozens of toilets sitting in her front yard, to her horror. This act marks the end of what was once a close friendship.

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