Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1412
In the next two weeks, Minny, Aibileen, and Skeeter meet regularly to record Minny’s story. She always speaks to Aibileen, not Skeeter, and nearly always storms out in a rage. Occasionally Minny lapses into stories about Miss Celia and then stops herself and tells Skeeter to leave Miss Celia out of her writing. Minny likes to talk about two things: her fury at white people and food. One day as she talks about preparing a meal with a white baby in one arm, Minny says none of this has to do with civil rights and all Skeeter is writing about is life. Skeeter pauses and agrees, saying she hopes that is what she is doing. Minny storms off again, saying she has more important things to worry about than what a white woman is hoping for.
Three months after their date, Stuart Whitworth shows up at Longleaf. Mrs. Phelan rushes up to tell her daughter that he is here and asks from which Whitworth family he belongs. She is stunned when Skeeter tells her he is the senator’s son, though Skeeter refuses to dress up or do more than brush her hair and wash the typewriter ink and correction fluid from her hands and elbows. Stuart is dressed as if he were going out to dinner; after she offers to get him a drink (or the entire bottle), he apologizes. He says again that he told Hilly he was not ready to date after what happened. He is surprised to learn that Skeeter does not know his story, so he sits on the rocker and prepares to tell her. She does not sit, but she does not ask him to leave either.
He tells her about his engagement to Patricia van Devender after having dated since they were fifteen. He assumes she knows what dating someone for a long time is like, but she tells him she has never dated anyone. He laughs and says that is probably why she is different, why he has never met anyone like her. She is honest and says what she means, unlike most women of his acquaintance. After he apologizes again for his behavior that night, he asks if she would like to go have dinner with him. As she considers his offer, she remembers the cruel things he said to her that night and answers that she really cannot imagine anything worse. He apologizes again and walks with his head down to his car. Skeeter is moved by his contrition and hollers at him to wait a minute while she gets her sweater.
Skeeter is remembering everything that happened from that moment as she lies in bed pretending to be asleep in order to avoid her mother’s questions. By the time they got to the restaurant, it was near closing time and all they would serve was dessert. Stuart asked her what she wanted out of life, and she told him she wanted to be a journalist or a novelist—or both. He did not laugh at her ambition and told her he hopes she writes something really good, something she believes in. They talked about how to find oil and about being only one of two women who work at the paper. Just as Skeeter was wishing she had washed her hair that morning (and the waiter was wishing they would leave the restaurant), Stuart kissed her. Every single thing in her body was suddenly filled with light.
A week after her date with Stuart, Skeeter is at the library looking for more books to give Aibileen. A high school classmate, Susie Pernell, is working at the front desk and tries to give her advice about what to read (including a book on how to manage unruly hair). Skeeter knows what she is looking for, but there are no books on domestic workers. Because she is tall, she sees a booklet of Jim Crow laws up high on a shelf. She begins reading about all the things a Negro is not allowed to do and is shocked by how many laws exist to separate the races. As she prepares to set the pamphlet aside, Skeeter has the sudden realization that Hilly’s building a bathroom for Aibileen is no different than these laws. She tucks the small book into her bag (along with a defaced copy of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave) and prepares to leave the library. Susie is on the phone as Skeeter walks by but asks if she is really dating Stuart Whitworth. Skeeter has never stolen anything, but she is happy this first time is on Susie’s watch.
Hilly has called a special meeting of the League before summer arrives and attendance drops off. They are discussing how to get food to the poor, starving children in Africa. Hilly is against sending them money because the adults are more likely to spend it at the local voodoo tent to get “satanic tattoos” than on food for their children. As Skeeter makes her way across the room, everyone wants to know about her relationship with Stuart. They have been seeing each other for three weeks, and he has had drinks at her house with her parents several times. Her mother is in a constant state of agitation, torn between worrying that Skeeter will “screw it up” and reveling in the knowledge that she does, indeed, like men. They are going out tomorrow night, and Hilly says they will make it a double date at the movies. Skeeter says nothing; she does not want the Holbrooks to come on this date. Hilly says she will have William call Stuart, and there is something disconcerting about the offer; however, Skeeter sighs and agrees, thinking she is probably just “being paranoid.”
Several nights ago, on her way to Aibileen’s, two policemen stopped her. She explained she needed to drop off a paycheck for her maid, Constantine, and they told her to be careful because there was some “Yankee trash stirring up trouble.” The incident shook her up for the entire interview that night. Now Skeeter goes back to the table and looks through the contents of her satchel; everything is in there: the interview notes, the manuscript, the stolen books. Hilly reaches in from behind and asks if this is her article for the League newsletter, and Skeeter hastily tells her she needs to make a few corrections before she can show it to her.
Skeeter arrives home five minutes before her mother needs the car, and suddenly she discovers her satchel is missing. She realizes she must have left it at the League House. The phone rings just as Mrs. Phelan calls good-bye. Hilly has the satchel at her house and Skeeter can come get it there. Hilly has no qualms about snooping through other people’s possessions, and the “dread in Skeeter’s stomach is flat and hard and hot, like a brick in the sun.” Her mother hears her call out and, miraculously, comes back to get her. Skeeter insists that she drive her to Hilly’s, but her mother drives much too slowly and Skeeter insists on driving. Again, miraculously, her mother pulls over to comply. Skeeter drives her to a secretive appointment at the hospital, supposedly for some routine tests on her ulcers. All of this is news to Skeeter, and she helps her mother out of the car and into the hospital. As she drives away, Skeeter thinks about how “frail and inconsequential” her mother has become.
From the puckered look on Hilly’s face, Skeeter knows she has arrived too late. Although everything on the surface seems taut, nothing overt is said. Hilly hopes she does not mind, but she had to check something from the minutes. Skeeter examines the satchel and it seems her manuscripts and interview notes, tucked deep in a side pocket, are untouched. The booklet of Jim Crow laws is missing; the paper is still there on which Skeeter wrote, “Jim Crow or Hilly’s bathroom plan—what’s the difference?” Hilly says she is going to see a movie tonight, the same movie she planned for them to see on their double date tomorrow night. She also says she was just thinking about Stuart’s father standing next to the governor when they fought against that colored student walking onto the Ole Miss campus. As Skeeter leaves, Hilly slams the door hard behind her.