The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

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Chapter 8 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 600

Miss Skeeter

Three weeks ago, Miss Skeeter got a phone call from Elaine Stein, the editor from New York. She took the call in the pantry, a place she always used to go for privacy. Skeeter had sent her idea for a book to Miss Stein, telling her she already had one working and respected maid who has agreed to talk to her—which was, of course, a lie. Skeeter explained that everyone has heard the white woman’s point of view about having black maids, but no one talks about the fact that these black maids raised children who then, ironically, grew up to hire them. Miss Stein called to tell her the idea had merit, but she used to live in Atlanta and doubted any black women in Mississippi would be willing to talk of such things in such racially charged times. Skeeter insists that it can be done. Miss Stein tells her the idea is good but there is “no possible way to take it to print.” In the end, she agrees to read whatever Skeeter sends her and let her know if it is worth pursuing.

When Skeeter goes to Elizabeth’s house, she brings an old, worn-out satchel that belonged to her grandmother but matches nothing she owns. The Miss Myrna letters are in it. Hilly reminds her of her date’s arrival in two weeks, and Aibileen greets her quietly. It has been a week since Skeeter’s visit to Aibileen’s house. As they work quietly on new Miss Myrna questions, Skeeter pulls out an envelope and tries to give it to Aibileen. She tells the maid she wants to pay her for her help, but Aibileen will not take it. She recognizes it as a bribe and tells her to find someone else to talk to about her book idea. She begs her to put the envelope away in case Miss Leefolt comes in and sees it. Skeeter really has set aside five dollars from each article and has been waiting until the amount was substantial enough to give it to Aibileen, but she realizes now her timing was poor and they are worse off than they were before. She may have scared her away for good.

Mrs. Phelan corners Skeeter in the kitchen and tries to “fix” the only thing about which she can do something—her daughter’s hair. She applies a bunch of goop on her daughter’s head, rubs it in, covers it with a plastic cap, and attaches a hose from the cap to the Magic Soft & Silky Shinalator. She sits for two hours, smoking, reading, and thinking about the past week. Skeeter kept hoping to catch Aibileen alone, but it never happened. Hilly was giddy about the date she arranged for Skeeter and was smugly pleased with her provision of a private bathroom for Aibileen (she arranged the men and equipment to build it). She would not let the subject drop until she heard the maid thank her for it. Skeeter prayed she would not say it, and for a short time it appeared as if she would not. Eventually Aibileen whispered a thank-you as she left the room. Skeeter realizes then why she does not want to tell her experiences to another white woman.

After two hours, the cap comes off and Skeeter’s mother washes, rolls, and dries her daughter’s hair. When Skeeter finally looks at herself in the mirror, she and her mother are both incredulous at the transformation. It worked. Now all Skeeter is thinking about is her upcoming date.

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