The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

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Chapter 9 Summary

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Miss Skeeter

It is Saturday, the day of Skeeter’s date with Stuart Whitworth. After another session under the Shinolator, she goes shopping for the flattest shoes she can find and a dress that flatters her tall, skinny figure. She charges it all to her mother, who is always begging her to do more shopping for clothes that are flattering for “her size.” Her stomach is actually in knots, and Skeeter is afraid to hope for something she thought she would never have. Her new hair and dress give her hope.

Four months ago Hilly showed her a picture of Stuart. He was handsome, but Skeeter was intimidated to learn that for years he had dated Patricia van Devender (the girl named “Most Beautiful” at Ole Miss for two years in a row) and started his own oil business in Vicksburg, but she agreed to the date to keep Hilly “off her back.”

Skeeter does not tell her mother about the date; she knows her mother would fill the next months with “excruciating questions” when things do not work out as she would like. Her brother, Carlton, is home with his girlfriend, and she is exactly the kind of girl Mrs. Phelan wishes Skeeter was—concerned about china patterns and family heritage. She needs to get her mother’s keys to the Cadillac so she can get to Hilly’s in time to do her makeup and get dressed before Stuart arrives. Mrs. Phelan will not allow her daughter to be rude to their guest and insists she stay with the family that night—or what would their guest think of them? Skeeter finally resorts to lying and says she has to take care of Hilly’s children because she is sick; her mother finally relents but says she cannot take the Cadillac.

Desperate because she only has half an hour before Stuart will arrive at Hilly’s, Skeeter finally takes the keys to the old truck and leaves. For her first date in two years, Skeeter drives to town in a 1941 red Chevrolet pickup truck with a trailer hauling a John Deere motor grader behind it. It stalls twice along the way and she wonders if the truck will even make it. At three minutes before six, Skeeter parks the truck down the street, grabs the bag with her dress, and runs to Hilly’s house. She throws open the door, windblown, sweaty, and out of breath. Then she freezes.

Stuart is already there, and when he stands up she sees he is at least four inches taller than her. Hilly grabs her and takes her to her dressing room. Hilly works on her friend’s windblown hair as Skeeter clumsily applies makeup—which Hilly wipes off and reapplies. Eventually Skeeter feels presentable and asks Hilly to rate her from one to ten. After careful consideration, Hilly proclaims she is a “six.” Both women then begin to squeal with delight, for Skeeter has never gotten more than a “four” from Hilly before now.

The double date with Hilly and William is not a success. Stuart drinks too much, is not at all attentive to her (in fact, she catches him ogling another woman), virtually accuses her of fortune hunting, and spends his time talking to William about deer hunting and politics.

At one point, William catches Stuart’s and Skeeter’s eyes and shakes his head, thankful Hilly did not see her former boyfriend Johnny Foote and his wife, Celia, before they left the restaurant. Celia is the woman Stuart was staring at so intently. When he makes a comment about how “hot” she is, Skeeter gives up on this date. While William and Hilly are visiting someone across the room, Stuart asks what Skeeter does for a living, and when she tells him she writes a column on “domestic maintenance,” he is derisive and belittling. She asks him if he was dropped on his head as an infant, and he laughs and orders another drink. The rest of the meal goes no better, and as soon as they return to the Holbrooks’ Skeeter escapes to the bathroom.

After much disagreement about who should drive whom home, Skeeter heads to her truck and Stuart follows. When he sees what she drove, he is incredulous and finally focuses on her for the first time all evening. After he looks at her for several moments, Skeeter’s eyes begin to well with tears. Stuart relaxes his body and says he told Hilly he was not ready to date. Skeeter walks away and heads back to the house.

In the morning, Skeeter gets up before any of the Holbrooks awaken and drives the truck back home. When she gets home, Skeeter sees her mother and hugs her, holding on even when her mother is ready to let go. She feels guilty for not being nicer to her, for not needing her until her own life got bad, and for wishing Constantine were here instead. She tells her mother she is fine, though she feels as if she has been kicked in the stomach. Mrs. Phelan says she thinks this girl may be “the one” for Carlton, and Skeeter is glad for him.

The next day the phone rings, and Skeeter is glad she is the one who answers it. She hears Aibileen speaking in a whisper on the other end of the line, asking what will happen if Skeeter does not like what Aibileen has to say about white folks. Skeeter assures her it does not matter, that she will not get mad about anything she says. Aibileen will have to trust her. They will change everyone’s names, and they will have to meet at Aibileen’s house to talk, but she will do it. Skeeter asks if anyone else might be willing to talk with her just in case her editor is willing to read more than one interview. Aibileen is quiet for a moment and then says maybe Minny would talk with her, though she “ain’t real keen on talking to white peoples.”

Skeeter realizes she will be getting insights into both her friends’ lives. When she asks Aibileen what changed her mind, the maid says two simple words: “Miss Hilly.” Obviously Aibileen has had enough of bathroom plans, accusations of stealing, and talk of colored diseases. She speaks the name with great bitterness.

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