The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

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Chapter 16 Summary

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About a year after Treelore died, Aibileen began to attend the Community Concerns Meetings held at her church to help her pass the time. In recent days, though, the meetings have been more about civil rights than keeping the streets clean. Now, since Medgar Evers’s assassination a week ago, there is a lot of frustration, especially by the young people who have not yet built up a callus to injustice. The meetings are held every night, and there is crying and yelling because people are angry. Aibileen is here tonight hoping to find more maids to talk to since it seems they will be able to continue their project.

Thirty-five maids have refused. Aibileen is beginning to feel she is trying to sell something no one is interested in buying, but she knows she is telling stories that must be told. Minny would be an effective salesperson for this task, but they all decided from the beginning not to reveal her part in the project. They have to use Miss Skeeter’s name, though she is not the one who can convince the women to talk to her. Word has gotten out, and now Aibileen routinely gets cut off before she can say more than a few words.

Deacon Thoroughgood is leading the meeting tonight. He tells everyone they will spend the time in quiet prayer, and Aibileen is thankful. She says her prayers and will then go home and write them. Yule May is sitting in front of Aibileen; she is the most educated maid in town, having mostly finished college. As they are praying, a young black man stands in the doorway and asks what everyone is going to do about it. The Deacon tells him some of them will march with Doctor King when he goes to Washington, D.C., but that answer does not satisfy the agitated man. He is incredulous that all they plan to do is pray and asks if they think prayer is going to keep white men from killing them. In front of Aibileen, Yule May begins to nod her head in answer to the question.

The meeting ends at eight o’clock and Aibileen visits for a moment with Miss Hilly’s maid. Yule May is forty and thin and always wears small, gold hoop earrings. She and her husband are about to send their twin sons off to college and have saved nearly all the money to do so. The two women have a mutual love of writing, and Yule May quietly says she knows what Aibileen and Miss Skeeter are doing. Aibileen tells her she understands why she cannot help; she cannot afford to lose her job, not now when they have almost all the money they need for the boys’ education. But Yule May does not drop the issue. She asks if it is true that all the names are changed for the book.

Yule May asks if she can just tell her stories and Miss Skeeter can write them down and edit them. Aibileen assures her they write the good and the bad. She can see that Yule May would love to tell what it is like to work for Miss Hilly. Looking her straight in the eyes, Yule May asks if they can talk about this again when she has more time. It is like she has just been waiting to be asked. This is a stunning thought to Aibileen, who stands in the corner and laughs out loud.

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