The Help

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Charlotte Phelan Character Analysis

Skeeter’s mother, Charlotte is an old-fashioned Southern woman who tries to persuade her daughter to conform to gender norms. Though dying of cancer, Charlotte is a fighter and is still alive at the end of the novel. Charlotte also harbors racist beliefs that she never renounces. Even though Constantine had been like a mother to Skeeter, she fires her just because her daughter Lulabelle pretended to be white and mingled with her white friends.

Charlotte Phelan Quotes in The Help

The The Help quotes below are all either spoken by Charlotte Phelan or refer to Charlotte Phelan . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Berkley Books edition of The Help published in 2009.
Chapter 5 Quotes

“Now you look a here, Eugenia”—because Constantine was the only one who’d occasionally follow Mama’s rule. “Ugly live up on the inside. Ugly be a hurtful, mean person.”

Related Characters: Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (speaker), Constantine Bates (speaker), Charlotte Phelan
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

During a sequence of flashback scenes about Skeeter's childhood, and particularly about her relationship to her family's black maid Constantine, Skeeter describes a scene that occurred when she was thirteen. Skeeter was crying, distraught that one of her brother's friends called her "ugly." Constantine found Skeeter in the kitchen and told her these words. 

Constantine's characterization of "ugly" as a defect in one's personality (which makes someone a "hurtful, mean person") demonstrates how Constantine has a wiser, more mature interpretation of the world than Skeeter's mother does. While Skeeter's mother is concerned about the superficial surface of Skeeter's appearance (because she hopes that her daughter will marry well and attract a suitable man), Constantine focuses on the richness of people's internal lives. Here, she does not treat Skeeter according to her appearance; unlike most, she even avoids using Skeeter's nickname, which Skeeter received because she looked unattractive ("long and leggy and mosquito-thin") even as a baby. Constantine transcends social as well as physical veneers; here, she treats Skeeter as an individual, who can choose what she will believe, instead of simply viewing Skeeter as the white child of her employer. 

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Charlotte Phelan Character Timeline in The Help

The timeline below shows where the character Charlotte Phelan appears in The Help. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
...field waiting for the cotton to bloom so they can begin the harvest. Skeeter’s mother, Charlotte Phelan, tells her to use her college education to get a job in a “man-meeting... (full context)
Chapter 6
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Upset about the news that Constantine was fired, Skeeter returns home and asks Charlotte if she fired Constantine. At first, her mother denies it, but when Skeeter says she... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
...wrong that she doesn’t know the truth about why Constantine left. Aibileen says her mother, Charlotte Phelan, fired Constantine because of something to do with Constantine’s daughter coming to find her.... (full context)
Chapter 8
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
At home, Charlotte helps Skeeter apply a hair care product that she bought to straighten her hair. While... (full context)
Chapter 12
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
...spends four days straight organizing Aibileen’s stories into a twenty-seven page manuscript. Whenever her mother Charlotte asks what Skeeter is up to all day, Skeeter lies and says she’s writing down... (full context)
Chapter 13
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Skeeter is in her room typing up some of Minny’s day-to-day experiences when Charlotte knocks on her door and tells her that Stuart Whitworth is downstairs. Dressed nicely, he... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
...with her now. Terrified that Hilly will snoop through the bag, Skeeter asks her mother Charlotte to drive her to Hilly’s. Charlotte agrees, saying she’ll drop Skeeter off on the way... (full context)
Chapter 20
Racism Theme Icon
In mid-July, Skeeter, Charlotte, and her father Carleton arrive at Stuart’s house for dinner with his parents, Francine and... (full context)
Chapter 21
Racism Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
...on the book in order to distract herself from the pain of thinking about Stuart. Charlotte’s ulcers are also getting worse. Skeeter notices that every day her mother looks just a... (full context)
Chapter 27
Racism Theme Icon
The next day Skeeter tells Charlotte she knows about everything that happened with Constantine, but that she wants to hear her... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Charlotte says that Lulabelle walked straight passed her and started mingling with the other women who... (full context)
Chapter 28
Racism Theme Icon
At the home that Skeeter shares with her parents, the family doctor informs her that Charlotte has cancer in her stomach lining. The doctor says her mother has two months to... (full context)
Chapter 33
Racism Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
At a drugstore, Skeeter picks up medicine for Charlotte, who is still alive and battling cancer. There, she runs into a woman named Lou... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
...a letter accusing Skeeter of writing the book. She plans to give the letter to Charlotte, which worries Skeeter because this info will be a shock to her ailing mother. Hilly... (full context)