Aibileen calls to tell Minny what happened at Miss Leefolt’s and Minny begins to fear that Celia will fire her as soon as she finds out about the false recommendation. One day, Minny arrives at work with a bad cut on her forehead from the previous night when her husband, Leroy, beat her just for the pleasure for it. He’s beaten her before, but always when he was drunk. This time he was sober.
Minny’s abusive husband reveals how Minny is the victim of both racist and sexist oppression. Minny commutes from the oppressive environment of her own home, where she has no defense against her husband’s physical attacks, to the homes of her white employers, who have power over her socially, economically, and politically.
Celia acts normally around Minny, which gives Minny the hope that Hilly hasn’t contacted her yet. In the kitchen, they suddenly see a naked white man in their yard, stroking himself and making threatening gestures at them. Celia calls the police while Minny takes a knife and goes outside to confront him. The man punches her where Leroy had hurt her.
In a strange, darkly comic way, the naked man represents the constant dangers for women in an oppressive patriarchal society. The man strokes his penis as if it were his weapon, and the fact that he hits Minny on the same spot that her husband did emphasizes the two men’s shared connection as male aggressors who abuse women.
While Minny is on the ground bleeding from the reopened cut, Celia comes out and beats the man almost to death with a fire poker. Minny cannot believe a white woman is protecting her from a white man. The man, barely able to walk, stumbles off and Minny sees Celia as the strong “white trash” woman she once was.
Celia uses a phallic instrument (the fire poker) to beat the man, thus emasculating him and asserting her power as a woman. Minny recognizes that Celia’s true strength comes from the very aspect of her identity that she must downplay in order to maintain her class status: her “white trash” background.
That night, Minny goes to Aibileen’s and tells her about what happened with Celia and the white man. Minny comments that Celia doesn’t see the lines between people – both the ones between whites and blacks and those between Celia and people like Hilly. Aibileen says that the line between black and white people is imaginary and that Minny should tell Celia that she’s too good for Miss Hilly.
Minny once again thinks that Celia is “ignorant” of the lines that separate people, but Aibileen illustrates that Minny is the one being ignorant about this. Aibileen suggests that individuals can transcend the “color line” by focusing on what connects them instead of what divides them. This is a rather simplistic lesson considering the complexities of institutional racism and a history of inequality, but the novel focuses on the private sphere of the home, and Stockett’s advice (through Aibileen’s voice) is aimed at changing racist opinions one at a time.
The next day, Celia asks Minny why the other women aren’t friendly to her. Trying to follow Aibileen’s advice, Minny tells her it’s because they think she’s a white trash hick who stole Hilly’s boyfriend by getting pregnant. Misunderstanding what Minny is saying, Celia mistakenly thinks that if she explains to Hilly that she got pregnant after Hilly and Johnny broke up, then Hilly will accept her into the friend group. Minny suggests she forget about those women and give Miss Skeeter a call because she’s a good lady who’ll respect her. Celia says that the League women hate Skeeter so there must be something wrong about her. Minny always knew that Celia wasn’t too bright, but now she realizes she’s a hypocrite too.
Celia and Minny find a common ground as women struggling against male oppression. Minny hopes this shared experience has brought them close enough for her to be honest with Celia, but Celia’s desire for acceptance by the white women makes her deaf to the truth Minny speaks. Celia’s hypocrisy shows that she is highly susceptible to the opinions of the society women. As a result, Celia’s desire to fit in might lead her to absorb the society women’s racist beliefs in the same way Elizabeth Leefolt does when she builds another bathroom to seem wealthier and higher class.
On the night of the Benefit, Celia dresses in a tight hot-pink dress. As in past years, Minny will be working in the kitchen at the Benefit. Minny knows that most women barely show elbow at the event, but she can’t find a way to tell Celia she’s going to embarrass herself if she wears such a revealing dress. Celia has already started drinking champagne and feels confident that she looks like a movie star.
Celia’s outfit shows how little she understands about high society. Her lack of knowledge about the rules of middle-class white conduct makes her treat Minny with more respect than the average white woman, but it also makes her unable to integrate into Jackson high society.