The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

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What are the six most significant scenes portrayed in the novel The Help?

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Here are six significant scenes in The Help. Whether they are the biggest ones or the most meaningful ones is a matter of personal perspective. The first two actually happen off-camera, so to speak, before the book or the movie even begins.

1. Minny bakes a special chocolate pie for Miss Hilly Holbrook, an act she refers to as the “Terrible Awful.” This decision surrounds the time when Minny is fired from her position with Mrs. Walters, Hilly’s mother. It shows Minny’s spirit and nature. She first mentions the "Terrible Awful" to Aibileen near the end of Chapter 2, and the movie offers a flashback to the scene. In both cases, the explanation of what Minny did comes much later, when the situation calls for it.

2. Skeeter (Eugenia Phelan) graduates from Ole Miss, officially known as the University of Mississippi. All of her friends leave college early to get married to boys they meet on campus. Skeeter is different. She wants more out of life than just being a housewife; she wants a career as a journalist. Her degree and ambitions set her apart from the other white socialites of Jackson. Her studies may also have opened her eyes to the racial inequity and discrimination that are part of everyday life in this time and place.

3. At the beginning of Chapter 6, Skeeter gets an encouraging letter from Elaine Stein at Harper & Row, and she also lands a household hints column at the Jackson Journal. Both help her become the writer she longs to be, and both put her in touch with Aibileen, which is a key connection.

4. Yule May is arrested for stealing a ring from the Holbrook home. We learn of this tragedy in Chapter 19, when Skeeter gets a letter from Yule May, written from the penitentiary. As a result of her arrest, the other black maids immediately decide that they all want Skeeter to include their stories in the book, too. It’s time to tell the truth.

5. The Jackson Junior League holds its Annual Ball and Benefit. We read about it in Chapter 25 -- the only chapter written as a third-person narrative and not from the point of view of a single, specific character. All of the main characters are brought together in one place and time, and with somewhat disastrous results. The pie issue makes an appearance, too.

6. Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny decide to put the story of the “Terrible Awful” in their book. We hear of their decision in Chapter 27. They agree that it is their best insurance against charges, revenge, or even violence aimed especially at the black maids. Hilly Holbrook will never admit that she ate the pie; and as a result, she will deny that the book has any connection to Jackson. This proves to be the perfect solution to the problem.

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