From the kitchen of Miss Leefolt’s, Aibileen watches Mae Mobley plays with her newborn brother, Ross, who is only a few months old. Mae Mobley, now four-years-old, begins school. Each day Mae Mobley comes home with a little more education, making Aibileen worry that Mae Mobley will soon learn to see black people as inferior. One day, Mae Mobley tells Aibileen that her teacher said black children don’t go to white schools because they’re not smart enough. Aibileen asks Mae Mobley if she thinks Aibileen is dumb. Mae Mobley says no and then says that her teacher is wrong. She hugs Aibileen and says she’s smarter than her teacher.
Aibileen’s fears are coming true, as Mae Mobley is already being influenced by her racist society. But the stories Aibileen told her about civil rights have instilled in her an inner resilience against these beliefs. Confused by what her teacher said, because it contradicts these stories, Mae Mobley comes to Aibileen with a genuine desire to understand the nature of race. Mae Mobley resists her teacher’s racist influence (for now) because of her love for Aibileen.
From inside the black church, Aibileen watches Skeeter drop a brown package at the steps of the church and walk away. Aibileen and Skeeter haven’t met in person for six months in order not to arouse any suspicions before the book’s release. Aibileen opens the package to find enough copies of the book for her and the other maids. On the cover is a white dove, the symbol of peace.
Stuart accused Skeeter of “stirring up trouble” by publishing these stories, but Skeeter truthfully countered that trouble was already in Jackson, because the whites had created a segregated society. Thus, the dove on the cover indicates that her book is not meant to incite violence or disunity among the people of Jackson, but instead intended to put an end to “trouble” by repairing some social injustices in the South.
Aibileen and Minny, who’s six months pregnant, go to a church event. When they arrive the whole congregation starts clapping for Aibileen. The reverend says that the congregation knows it’s too dangerous for her to talk about the book publically, but they wanted, at least once, to celebrate her accomplishment. He hands her a copy of the book that has hundreds of names signed over its front and back covers. He says that since she can’t have her name on the cover, black people from communities all around Jackson signed their names instead. Aibileen feels love for the community well up inside her. The reverend then gives her another signed copy of the book for Skeeter. He says their community will love Skeeter like family.
The black community’s hugely supportive reception of the book anticipates and contrasts with the impending white community’s negative, even violent reception. While the book gave Aibileen a platform for self-expression, the signatures show that she also gave a voice to many other black citizens who face daily racism. The gift for Skeeter also shows that the black community is being far more forgiving and accepting than the white community in these racial conflicts. Skeeter now represents the possibility of having white allies in their struggle against oppression. At the same time, this exaggeratedly positive response to Skeeter’s book seems presumptuous on Stockett’s part—as if the present-day black community should be happy and grateful to her for writing The Help.
So far there has been little change in the white community since the publication of the book, but a popular news program that is going to review the book may change all that. At Miss Leefolt’s, Aibileen turns on the television to watch the program in the living room while she irons. Aibileen gets nervous when Leefolt comes into the room and starts watching with her. The male cohost praises the book as “enlightening,” suggesting that it may even be about Jackson, which worries Aibileen. The female co-host calls the book a disgrace to the South for telling lies about the good Southern women “who’ve spent their lives taking care of their help.” Intrigued that such a controversial book might be about Jackson, Leefolt goes out to buy a copy.
White people might find the book superficially “enlightening” if they read it simply to uncover the identities of the white women or maids identities in order to gossip about or punish them, but the book also has a potential for providing deeper enlightenment for white people who are truly willing to engage with it. Because the book gives a voice to those who are usually voiceless, it could help privileged whites widen their perspectives and gain some empathy for their black domestic workers.