Aibileen is a black maid working in Mrs. Leefolt's home. She has been a maid since age fourteen. She has raised many white women's children as if they were her own. She is very loving. Aibileen is the most sympathetic character in the novel. Though she has suffered the early death of her only son, Treelore, she is still able to love both white and black people.
Minnie is a black maid who has worked as a maid all her life. She has a reputation of having a big mouth, but also being a superb cook. Her cakes and pies are well known. She is a very strong woman. Her opinions and inability to suppress them, have gotten her fired from several jobs. Minnie tells it like it is. While she is a strong person, she also suffers from low self-esteem; and her husband beats her regularly.
Skeeter is a twenty-four-year-old college graduate, who was raised by a black maid, Constantine. Skeeter is college educated and, after having returned to her home town, realizes that she is very different from the other women she grew up with as a child. She had the idea to write the book from observing the relationships between black maids and their white employers all her life. Since she was raised by a black maid with whom she identified, she does not see a difference between herself and the black maids. She and her mother never got a long. She perceives herself as different than the other white women in her social group in Jackson. She feels like an outcast.
Constantine was the black maid who raised Skeeter. She is presented in the novel only in the past, through the eyes of other characters. However, her presence is very apparent in the minds of the characters. She had a white baby and moved out of Jackson unexpectedly when Skeeter was in college. Not until the end of the novel does the reader learn that she was actually fired by Skeeter's mother when Skeeter was in college.
Hilly is the president of the Junior League in Jackson. She is the most racist and bigoted character in the novel. She tried to legislate separate toilets for blacks and whites in private homes in Jackson; her rationale was that it was to protect whites from contracting diseases from blacks. Hilly treats the maids very poorly, using her social position to manipulate them into doing what she wants. Hilly gossips about everyone. She is very insecure and interprets other people's successes as a personal affront. She is full of rage and tries to get revenge on almost everyone who she thinks has slighted her in any way. She especially hates Celia Foote who married her old boyfriend. She hates Skeeter who openly humiliated her.
Celia is the white employer for whom Minnie works. She is tortured by her inability to conceive a child. She is socially ostracized in Jackson because she married Hilly's old boyfriend. Celia is very beautiful and buxom and wears clothes that accentuate her voluptuous figure. Celia grew up in a very poor area. She feels unworthy of living in a large, expensive house and being married to her husband who is in a higher social class. Celia is unaware of the social customs in Jackson so she is always offending people and dresses inappropriately. She is accepting of blacks and does not understand the social lines that exist between blacks and whites in Jackson.