The Help is told in first-person narrative and with alternating chapters by three main characters: Aibileen, Minny, and Miss Skeeter. Aibileen Clark is a black maid who works for the Leefolt family. She dotes on baby Mae Mobley Leefolt, and she quietly tries to teach the young girl something about racial tolerance. Aibileen’s own son Treelore was killed in a work-related accident. One of the woman’s talents is that she is successful at praying for people and for good causes in need. She writes out her prayers in a notebook each night. Aibileen agrees to help Miss Skeeter come up with answers for the Miss Myrna column in the local newspaper. Eventually she agrees to also help with the black maids book project.
Minny Jackson is a black maid who works for Celia and Johnny Rae Foote. Minny is known around Jackson as being a terrific cook. But she also has a temper and is stubborn and opinionated. Before she left her last employment, she made a pie for Hilly Holbrook that included what she calls the “Terrible Awful.” Minny lives with her husband Leroy and a house full of kids. Sadly, she suffers regular domestic abuse by Leroy. She clearly knows the lines between whites and blacks in the Mississippi of the early 1960s. She’s reluctant to help with Skeeter’s black maids book, but is eventually won over to help. She becomes a sort of friend to Celia, since the woman has been rejected by most of the members of the Jackson Junior League. By the end of the book, Minny is pregnant again, has gotten beaten up again, and has finally decided to leave her husband.
Miss Skeeter’s real name is Eugenia Phelan. She’s a white woman with frizzy white-blonde hair, and she’s an officer with the Jackson Junior League. She lives at her childhood home, the Longleaf cotton plantation, with her parents, Carlton and Charlotte Phelan. She graduated from Ole Miss and wants to be a writer. She gets $10 a week to write the Miss Myrna housekeeping hints column in the local paper, with Aibileen’s advice. Skeeter begins to get annoyed, frustrated, and angry, with the way that whites (including her best friends) treat the blacks in this city. She decides to compile a book of the black maids’ true stories, with their names changed to protect their identities. Skeeter dates Stuart Whitworth for a time, but she breaks up with him when it’s obvious that he expects her to abandon her civil rights and women’s rights ideas. By the end of the book, the black maids book is a success, and Skeeter has been offered a publishing-related job in New York.