Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1499
Miss Skeeter wakes from her sleep with her heart pounding in her chest. She wonders what she heard that awakened her. She gets out of bed and listens, but it was not her mother. It was a high-pitched scream, like the sound of ripping material. She sits back down and tries to still her beating heart.
Nothing is happening as they planned it—people seem to have figured out quickly that the book is about Jackson. Skeeter knew Hilly was a slow reader, but she forgot. In fact, Hilly is probably lying about how far along she is in her reading. Things seem to have gotten out of control; one maid has been fired, and it is likely that more will be fired yet. Skeeter thinks it is a great irony that she is the one waiting for Hilly to speak when she is also virtually the only person in town who does not care what Hilly has to say. This book may have been a mistake.
Skeeter thinks about her future, about the fifteen resumes she sent all over the country. Elaine Stein said she could use her as a reference, so she did. Her name is the only notable thing on Skeeter’s thin resume. She cannot add “author of Help” anywhere on her resume. Even if she does get a job, she cannot leave Aibileen when things are going so badly. But she really wants to be in New York. As the sun rises, Skeeter realizes that horrible scream was her own.
At the drugstore, Skeeter is waiting for her mother’s prescription. It is becoming clear that the best cure for cancer is a daughter who wears tacky clothes and has frizzy hair, giving her a reason to continue living. Mrs. Phelan was obviously disappointed with Skeeter’s nonengagement, but she rebounded quickly; she even set Skeeter up with a cousin who was obviously a homosexual. She told her mother he was not her type.
Skeeter wants to leave the drugstore before anyone she knows can come in and snub her. She really misses having friends, and it is too dangerous now to even go visit Aibileen, though they do talk occasionally on the phone. Nothing good has come from this book, just gossiping and treating the book as a giant guessing game. She was the one who promised the women they would not be found out, so she is the one responsible for this mess. Elizabeth and Lou Anne come into the drugstore, and Skeeter has to walk by them when she is called to pick up her mother’s prescription. The two ladies turn their backs to her, but they follow her with their eyes in the mirror.
Just as Skeeter is about to escape, Lou Anne asks to speak to her for a moment. Skeeter is surprised because no one has asked such a thing of her in eight months. After asking about Skeeter’s mother, Lou Anne tells her that Hilly has been telling people Skeeter is the one who wrote the book. Hilly also wants Lou Anne to fire her maid; however, Lou Anne does not want to do that because sometimes Louvenia is the only reason she can get out of bed. The doctors want to give her shock treatment for her depression and other things, and she needs encouragement from someone.
Louvenia is the best person Lou Anne knows, and when she read the chapter about her, she was moved and touched by Louvenia’s appreciation for Lou Anne’s kindness after her grandson, Robert, was beaten. Skeeter stays silent. It is the first positive thing she has heard about the book, but it also means Lou Anne knows the truth about the book. Lou Anne says that if Skeeter did write it, she wants her to know that she will never fire Louvenia—and if Hilly calls her again about firing her, she will tell Hilly she deserved that pie and worse.
But now, this morning, Hilly is telling everyone the book is not about Jackson. Skeeter is relieved and Lou Anne gets ready to leave. As she is leaving, Lou Anne tells Skeeter that Hilly Holbrook will not be getting her vote for League president in January—or ever again. After Lou Anne leaves, Skeeter regrets not having taken the time to be a better friend to her. The point of the book is for women to realize that, white or black, they are simply people and not very much separates them. Lou Anne understood that before she read the book; it is Skeeter who missed the point.
Sometimes when she is bored, Skeeter thinks about how her life would be if she had not written the book. She would be attending a bridge party and a League meeting every week, working on the League newsletter, going out with Stuart every Friday night, and playing tennis on Saturday. She would be tired—and frustrated. She may not have changed anyone’s behavior with this book, but at least she does not have to pretend she agrees with any of the awful behavior and attitudes of her “friends” anymore.
She slips outside for a walk and remembers to check the mail. It is dark but she sees one letter in the box and tucks it into her back pocket. As she continues walking, she hears the rumble of gravel. A car is driving up the lane; it does not have its headlights on. Skeeter watches Hilly park her Oldsmobile and decides she had better cut her off before Hilly does whatever she came to do. When Hilly sees her, she hisses at Skeeter not to come any closer. Skeeter finds herself staring at her former friend. She is a mess.
Hilly’s hair is sticking up oddly in the front, her blouse is half untucked, her fat belly is straining against her buttons, and she has a scabby sore at the corner of her mouth. She says she has contacted an expert libel lawyer, but Skeeter is not afraid. Harper & Row’s lawyers assured her she is in no danger. There is an envelope in Hilly’s hand and she is smoking nervously. Skeeter wonders how the two of them could ever have been friends.
Finally Hilly announces she is here to inform Skeeter’s mother of what her daughter has done. Skeeter is incredulous that Hilly is here to tattle to her mother, but the truth is that her mother does not know and Skeeter prefers it that way. After surviving a nonengagement and cancer, Missus Phelan would certainly survive this if she does find out. Hilly barges into the house, and Skeeter tries to stop her until she sees her mother come around the corner. Skeeter is not sure who is most surprised—her mother or Hilly. Her mother’s brown hair has turned snowy white and is thinning. The hand on her cane trembles, and she does not have all her teeth in so her cheeks are hollow. Ironically, the older woman asks Hilly if she is ill because she “looks horrendous.” Despite Hilly’s half-expressed excuses, Skeeter’s mother plans to make hair appointments for both girls tomorrow.
Hilly walks back out the door with the letter still in her hand. She spouts a series of threats about various maids in town, including Aibileen, whom she recognized because she included the description of an L-shaped crack in Elizabeth’s table. Skeeter acts confident but inside she is trembling and wondering what Hilly is planning.
When she goes back into the house, she reads the letter from her back pocket. Skeeter’s hand is shaking as she calls Aibileen. She explains that Hilly knows many of the maids, including Aibileen because of the L-shaped crack in the table. Minny is in the background, and she reminds them all that Hilly cannot tell on others unless she tells on herself. Skeeter realizes the greatness of Minny’s plan. She is hesitant to tell the rest of her news—that she got a job offer from Harper’s Magazine in New York as an assistant copy editor.
Both the black women are thrilled for her, but Skeeter says she cannot take the job and leave them in this mess. Aibileen points out the obvious—that the bad things are going to happen whether Skeeter is here or not. What she meant to say is that no one knows what will happen, so she should go pursue her dream. Minny takes the phone from Aibileen and says she does not want to be unkind, but she tells Skeeter that she has nothing here but enemies and a mother who might “drive her to drink.” And everyone knows she will never find another boyfriend here in town. So, she says, go to New York—and run, do not walk. Then she hangs up. Skeeter knows they are both right. She is going to New York.