The Help Questions and Answers
by Kathryn Stockett

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What are the main events of Kathryn Stockett's novel, The Help?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Kathryn Stockett's novel, The Help, the main events generally center around its three main characters: Skeeter Phalen who decides to write the book about "the help;" Aibileen, the black maid who works for Skeeter's friend Elizabeth; and, Minny, the brusque and outspoken maid who has been fired several times because she cannot keep her mouth closed while working with the white families who employ her.

Major events that surround Skeeter include her return from college without a husband—much to her mother's disappointment. Skeeter dates Stuart, the son of a state senator, and for a while this delights her and impresses her friends. However, Stuart has never recovered from an old girlfriend's infidelity, and he cannot deal with Skeeter's desire to expose the social injustices visited upon the "hired help" in their town. Skeeter is strong willed; in one instance, while standing up for what she believes, she has a large group of toilets delivered onto the lawn of a "former" friend who insists upon degrading the hired maids even further by insisting they have their own bathroom facilities in the house where they work, insisting that these women are diseased. Skeeter becomes very close to Aibileen and Minny. And she is greatly distressed when her friend Hilly arranges for her maid's arrest, along with an unfair sentence of four years in prison, for petty theft. Skeeter is the original driving force to get the book published, getting the plan from an idea Aibileen's dead son had had.

Minny gets fired early on from Miss Hilly's home, and finds herself working for Miss Celia, who is unfortunate enough to come from a poor and humble background and to have married Johnny, who had dated Miss Hilly for a very long time. Hilly was sure they would marry, and when Johnny marries Celia, Hilly decides that no one in Jackson will open their home to Celia. Celia tries hard to please her husband, secretly hiring Minny to cook and clean because Celia can do neither. Minny saves Celia's life when she miscarries, and Celia saves Minny's life when a crazy, naked man attacks the maid in Celia's front yard. (Celia's humble beginnings included dealing with a drunk father on a regular basis, and she flattens the intruder easily.)

Aibileen is the first woman to agree to work with Skeeter, and it is her involvement (and extenuating circumstances to be sure) that draw Minny into the project. Aibileen cares for Miss Elizabeth's daughter Mae Mobley. And when the child's mother brushes her baby off because she doesn't have the time for her, Aibileen decides that she will personally spend as much time as possible in convincing Mae that she is a good, smart and kind child—for Mae, at two years old, gets no encouragement and little love from her family members.

Robert, the grandson of Louvenia (a maid), is beaten with a tire iron because he uses a "whites-only" bathroom that is unmarked. He is permanently blinded.

Medgar Evers is assassinated during the course of the book, which devastates the black community.

The novel the three women put together is published by Harper and Row. The initial publication is larger than they had expected it to be, and there is a second printing as well. Skeeter's editor expects it to be a "hot" item as the country prepares for the Civil Rights Movement's March on Washington.

The life of the town, the relationships that develops between these women, and their triumph with the book are interwoven with life in the U.S. in the sixties.

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Kitty Sharp eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Because the novel is narrated by multiple voices, the reader gets insight into the main events that occur for several characters.  However, all the stories come together, and overall, the main event of the novel revolves around the publishing of Skeeter's book The Help.  Skeeter has made all of the stories anonymous, but members of the community start to suspect which stories belong to which maid.  But no one in town will admit to being in the book, and accusations are only made behind each other's back.  Families in town risk tarnishing their reputations if their stories are made publicly known.  So, the publishing of the book is the main event in the novel as it serves as the focal point for other events and situations.

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