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The central conflict in the novel is three-fold. Every major conflict is tied to the publication of the book project that Minny, Skeeter and Aibileen work on with the help of other maids from Jackson.
The fate of each of these main characters is connected to and decided by the success of the book project after it is published.
The conflict for Minny relates to the welfare of her family. She is uncertain of her employment with Miss Celia, having been fired once, but is guaranteed a position with the family later. Minny is also involved in an abusive relationship. To save herself and to protect her children, Minny has to do something about her situation.
When the book is published and is successful, Minny has enough confidence to move out of her husband's house and move her family in with her sister.
Aibileen's conflict is the more subtle of the three main characters. Her goal is to create a change that will make a death like her son's less possible. She wants to teach people, as she teaches Mae Mobley, to look past color. Her conflict is resolved when she is fired from Miss Elizabeth's house (because of Hilly). This is not a pure victory, but is rather a sign that despite the progress made through the publication of the book project, Jackson remains segregated and prejudiced. Those in power are allowed to use their power without justification. Things are not all bad for Aibileen, however, as she has been hired to take over for Skeeter writing the Miss Myrtle home help columns for the newspaper.
She was fired and she leaves but she is not sorry. She is looking forward to the writing job at the newspaper. She feels hope that maybe she is not too old to start over.
Finally, Skeeter's indentity conflict is resolved by the publication of the book. On the strength of the confidence she gained from the book project, she is able to get a job in New York City and move out of Jackson. All of Skeeter's issues and conflicts in the novel can be seen as identity issues, even her affair with Stuart. She has been trying to find a way to please her mother and herself. In the end, Skeeter realizes that she cannot find a middle ground between her desires and those of her mother. She has to put herself first.
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