In early December, Skeeter looks at the phone, finding herself wishing that Stuart would call. Skeeter hasn’t heard from him for five months. Skeeter picks up the phone and calls Elaine Stein to inform her on the progress of the book. Skeeter says she will complete the book by the second week of January, but Stein moves up the deadline to December 21st. Stein says that after December, the editorial staff is flooded with more projects they can handle, so she must submit her manuscript before everyone takes their winter vacations. Stein also tells Skeeter that she needs to include a story about her own maid to make the book more personal.
Stein’s request that she add a personal story heightens the connection between Stockett’s and Skeeter’s books. Like Skeeter, Stockett grew up in Jackson, had a family maid she loved, and eventually wrote a book (The Help) about the lives of black maids. Thus, Skeeter’s narrative perspective in The Help acts as a personal, almost autobiographical retelling of Stockett’s own experiences in Jackson.
At Aibileen’s, Skeeter tells her what Stein said about adding a more personal story. Aibileen agrees to tell Skeeter about what happened with Constantine. She just needs a few days to find the best way of telling her. A couple of days later, at a League meeting, Hilly initiates a vote to elect a new editor for the newsletter. No one votes for Skeeter and Hilly becomes the new editor.
The novel’s mysteries are beginning to be revealed. We know the truth about the pie, and soon Skeeter will learn the truth about Constantine. These revelations anticipate the more significant revelations that will occur when Stein publishes the book and the housewives learn of the maids’ stories.
On her way back home from the meeting, Skeeter wishes she could leave Jackson. When she arrives home, she sees Stuart waiting for her on the porch. He says that he visited Patricia in California. She was wearing a peace sign and had on no lipstick. Stuart says Patricia called him a whore for supporting his father and a whore supporting for Mississippi, which he finds ironic because she’s the one who cheated on him. Stuart says he wants to mend things with Skeeter now that he’s finally over the break-up. Skeeter feels love for him mixed with a fear of getting hurt again. She says there’s no place left in her heart for him and he says he doesn’t believe that. When he asks if he can come by to talk again, Skeeter says she doesn’t care what he does.
Patricia has clearly rejected the Southern gender norm that women wear makeup in public, and her peace sign shows that she’s adopted a new set of norms, specifically those of the Hippie movement in the 1960s. Stuart has so little self-awareness that he doesn’t recognize that Patricia calls him a whore as a way of turning the sexist meaning of the word on its head. Patricia implies that Stuart is the real whore because he debased himself by upholding the segregationist politics of his father instead of following his heart and marrying her.
That night, Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter meet at Aibileen’s to pick a title for the book. Skeeter suggests a long, academic title, but Aibileen says they need something simpler. She suggests calling the book, Help. They all agree and Minny only half jokes that they’re going to need some help if this book gets published.
The book’s title is a play on words: it is about the help, a plea for help, and itself help. Superficially, it refers to “the help” (the maids), but it is also a plea for “help” on their behalf. The title also suggests that the book itself is the very help that the maids need, since these stories will hopefully make the white women treat them with more respect.
Aibileen takes a day off of work to meet with Skeeter and tell her Constantine’s story. Twenty years ago, Constantine’s daughter, Lulabelle, was born with very white skin and blonde hair. With a white-looking child, Constantine wasn’t welcome in the black community or in the white. Ashamed of her daughter’s appearance, Constantine gave her up to an orphanage in Chicago when the girl was four. While Skeeter was in college, Lulabelle, then twenty-five, came to visit Constantine. Aibileen gives her a note with the rest of the story written on it, saying she better read it at home.
The reactions to Lulabelle’s physical appearance reveal that race is not a simple biological fact, but actually a complex social convention that has to do with one’s appearance, ancestry, and culture. The white community considers her black because her parents are black, but the black community considers her white because she has pale skin. Because the girl doesn’t fit the simple and limited definitions of “race,” she is an outsider everywhere.
At home Skeeter reads the story. Right away, she starts writing about Constantine for the book, but she finds that she can’t stand writing about what her mother did to their beloved family maid. She calls Aibileen to tell her that she’s not going to include what her mother did to Constantine because it would be a betrayal of her mother. Aibileen says she would respect Skeeter less if she did include it.
Skeeter’s decision not to put the story into the book and Aibileen’s support of that decision shows that, for these two women, loyalty to one’s family takes precedence over publicizing, and possibly rectifying, social and political wrongs.
The next day Skeeter tells Charlotte she knows about everything that happened with Constantine, but that she wants to hear her mother’s side of the story. Feeling judged by her daughter, Charlotte angrily accuses her of not knowing what truly happened. Her mother says that Lulabelle had arrived at their home while she was throwing an event for local white women. Having never seen her before, Charlotte thought she’s just white woman from the community. Lulabelle introduces herself as Constantine’s daughter who has come back to Jackson to live with her mother.
Over the course of the novel, Skeeter has learned to see things from other people’s perspectives in order to better understand what they are going through. Thus, Skeeter’s desire to hear her mother’s side of the story shows that she is once again trying to inhabit another’s perspective in order to find some redeeming quality in her mother’s behavior.
Charlotte says that Lulabelle walked straight passed her and started mingling with the other women who also think she’s white and treat her with the respect and kindness they would have only paid a white woman. Enraged that a black woman would dupe her white friends, Charlotte yells at Lulabelle, saying that she can never come to her house again. Lulabelle spits in her face. Charlotte, even angrier, tells Constantine she cannot work in their home if she stays in touch with her daughter. Unwilling to abandon Lulabelle again, Constantine returns to Chicago with her daughter, but dies only three weeks later.
Even now that we have Charlotte’s side of the story, there is nothing sympathetic about her behavior. Charlotte treats Constantine quite cruelly: she not only forces her to lose her job in order to be with her daughter, but she also makes Constantine abandon Skeeter. Charlotte puts Constantine in the impossible position of picking between her flesh-and-blood daughter, whom she hasn’t seen in years and Skeeter, a girl she loved and cared for like her own child.
Back at Aibileen’s, Skeeter brings over the whole manuscript to show Minny and Aibileen. As they look over the manuscript, they start worrying about what will happen if the housewives figure out that the book is about them. Minny decides to tell Skeeter and Aibileen about what happened with the pie so that they can put the story in for “protection.” That would mean Hilly would know the truth about where the events of the book take place, but would use her influence to steer people away from believing it was about Jackson so that no one would find out that she enjoyed two slices of Minny’s excrement pie. Minny says it’s their best chance to protect the maids, and they all agree. The next day Skeeter mails it to Elaine Stein.
By including this story in the book Minny takes the largest risk upon herself, since she will inevitably incite the fury of Miss Hilly. While Hilly might be too embarrassed to reveal the truth that Jackson is the setting of the novel, she’ll still be able to make Minny’s life a living hell. Minny essentially sacrifices her own safety and security in order to protect the other maids, showing her unqualified bravery and selflessness.