At its core, The Help is a book about a book. The three main characters – Aibileen Clark, Minny Jackson, and Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan – are compiling a book about the lives of the black maids of Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1950s and early 1960s. The climax will come after the book is published and received by the community of Jackson, Mississippi. Below are steps that lead to the climax.
- Skeeter gets an encouraging letter from Elaine Stein at Harper & Row. At the same time, she gets the assignment to write the weekly Miss Myrna household hints column for the Jackson Journal. She asks Elizabeth Leefolt’s permission to interview her maid, Aibileen Clark, to help supply the answers. Skeeter and Aibileen begin to meet. Eventually Aibileen mentions that, before he died, her son Treelore had begun writing a book about what it was like to be black and to work for whites in Mississippi (Chapter 6).
- Skeeter runs with Treelore’s idea and thinks a book about the white employers and black maids of Jackson would be worthwhile. She asks Aibileen for her help with it. The maid initially says no (Chapter 7).
- After hearing too much about Hilly Holbrook’s “initiative” about separate bathrooms, Aibileen calls Skeeter and agrees to help with the book (Chapter 9)
- Aibileen starts reading her writing to Skeeter. Minny agrees to share her stories, too (Chapter 12).
- Yule May, who works for Hilly Holbrook, tells Aibileen that she may agree to share her stories with Skeeter (Chapter 16).
- Yule May is arrested and put in jail for stealing a ring from the Holbrooks. She writes an apologetic letter to Skeeter. The other maids in the community are incensed by what has happened to their friend. Now they all want to talk to Skeeter and be included in the book (Chapter 19).
- The publisher moves up the deadline, and Skeeter and Aibileen have to rush to finish the book. They and Minny decide on “Help” as a title. They also decide to add Minny’s “Terrible Awful” story for insurance against Hilly Holbrook “outing” Jackson. Skeeter mails the manuscript at the post office in time, she hopes (Chapter 27).
- Skeeter hears from Harper & Row. They want to publish the book (Chapter 28).
- The book is published and arrives in Jackson. A favorable review appears on local television. Aibileen’s church and the black community quietly support both the maids and Skeeter (Chapter 29).
- Minny hears Hilly’s scream in the middle of the night, meaning that she reached the part about the pie (Chapters 32 and 33).