The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

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Chapter 17 Summary

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After nine months of working for Miss Celia, Minny is still not sure if her employer has something wrong with her body or her mind. She spends most of her time in bed, about which Minny used to be glad. But now that she has met Mister Johnny, though, Minny is ready to get Miss Celia up and “in shape.” When she refuses to get up, Minny uses her secret weapon and asks when she is going to tell her husband she has a maid. This always gets Miss Celia moving (and sometimes Minny does it just for her own entertainment). At Christmas, Miss Celia cried and begged for more time, and Minny gave in to her tears.

Mister Johnny has tried more than once to arrange for Miss Hilly and her friends to come over to play bridge, but it has never happened. Aibileen heard the other women making fun of the idea, and Miss Celia does not know how to play bridge anyway. Minny is relieved. She no longer worries about Mister Johnny, but she is sure Miss Hilly will tell Miss Celia about the awful thing she did (something she would probably fire herself for doing). Celia has left several messages for Miss Hilly, but Miss Hilly has not returned the calls. Minny hopes the phone never rings again.

The next day Miss Celia gets out of bed, and Minny thinks she is going upstairs, which she has begun to do again. Instead she begins calling the women from the League. None of them take her calls, of course, and Minny tells her these women “ain’t worth it.” Miss Celia just goes back to her bedroom and closes the door.

A heat wave comes at the end of June, and it makes Miss Celia even lazier. She will not even go sit by the pool, and this creates a problem for Minny. Miss Celia hovers when Minny cooks, and she eats lunch with her—at the same table—every day. Minny’s theory is that if God wanted white people and colored people to be so close together for so long, he would have made them colorblind.

The Community Concerns meeting is Wednesday night, and the attendants will discuss a sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter. Aibileen is going but Minny insists she cannot attend and gives her friend a fake excuse. She reluctantly agrees to come over to talk to Miss Skeeter on Tuesday night. She feels like she is talking behind her own back, but she wants things to be better for her children; it is a “sorry fact” that it is a white woman who is doing this for them. What Minny cannot say is that the meetings with Miss Skeeter are all she has. She is not interested in sitting on a stool or going to meetings; what she is interested in is making sure that in ten years no white woman will call her daughters dirty and accuse them of stealing the silver.

At dinner that night, Minny’s family sees in the paper that there has been a sit-in, and the children begin to discuss it. Kindra, the oldest girl (the one with Minny’s temper), is angry at white people, and Leroy points his finger at every one of his children and tells them to keep their mouths shut about any of this outside their house because it is too dangerous. Kindra is quiet then explodes, saying she hates white people and will say so to anybody she pleases. Leroy is furious; he smacks his hand on the table and stares his children down...

(This entire section contains 1265 words.)

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after again forbidding them to talk about such things outside of their home. Minny worries about what he would do if he knew she was talking to Miss Skeeter.

The next week Miss Celia calls more than a dozen society ladies, none of whom return her calls, though she remains hopeful they will. She has even called Miss Skeeter, and Minny had to ask her not to return the call—it would make the web too complicated. Despite the rejection, Miss Celia is positive and even makes new plans to tell her husband about Minny soon. Minny is thankful because she is sick of all the lies. Miss Celia asks Minny to go fetch the mail, and she brings in a heavy box that makes a kind of tinkling sound—perhaps more of the beauty creams the woman loves so much. Miss Celia mumbles something and hauls the box upstairs.

Soon Minny cannot find Miss Celia anywhere downstairs and assumes she has once again crept up the stairs to the creepy rooms. Minny decides it is time for her to go upstairs and see what is up there. She waits for an opportunity and finds one the next afternoon. She tiptoes up the stairs and sees the door to the fourth bedroom is open a crack. When Minny looks in, she sees Miss Celia sitting on the bed with the open package in front of her. The contents look like whiskey, and the woman drinks it as if it is her best friend. Minny knows the look, for both her father and her husband have a sick relationship with the bottle. Now she is working for someone just like them. Minny is disgusted.

The next week Minny begins another cooking lesson with Miss Celia. She is irate and swears to herself she will follow her mother’s Rule Number One. If she says something, it means she cares—and it is not her business to care if her employer chooses to be a “drunk fool.” When they sit down to lunch, Minny tries to remain aloof, but Miss Celia will not have it. She tells Minny she is lucky to have her for a friend, and Minny cannot help herself. She explains they are not friends but it is not just about color—she knows about the bottles upstairs. Minny’s suggestion that she throw it all down the drain is so upsetting that Miss Celia threatens to fire Minny. Minny is in a temper now and asks who else would come clear out to the country to work for a drunken woman who has to keep her maid’s presence a secret. Miss Celia tells her to finish her lunch and then go home. Minny is shaking as she realizes she has just lost another job.

The next day is Saturday and Minny is still fuming. She refuses to tell Leroy that she got sassy with a white woman again and lost another job, so she spends her energy cleaning. When her family becomes too clingy, Minny goes to see Aibileen. Her friend immediately knows something is wrong, and Minny tells her she has been fired and will never apologize to a drunk. Aibileen observes that Miss Celia Rae Foote must be the worst employer Minny ever worked for, and Minny readily agrees she is the worst by far. Aibileen sets a trap for her friend, reminding her about all the awful things her former bosses have done to her and then sarcastically comparing that to working with Miss Celia—giving those tedious cooking lessons, putting up with Mister Johnny all the time, cleaning up after all Miss Celia’s friends and parties, and all the kids she has to look after. Minny gets the point and says she will go talk to her Monday. She says Miss Celia is dumb “but she ain’t stupid.” Minny spends the weekend hoping she will get her job back.


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