The Help

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Elizabeth Leefolt Character Analysis

Aibileen’s employer, Elizabeth is a neglectful and verbally abusive mother to Mae Mobley. She, Hilly, and Skeeter have been best friends since elementary school. Elizabeth tries to hide her family’s low income so that she can gain access to Jackson’s high society. Elizabeth is also seriously lacking in moral convictions. Elizabeth builds a separate bathroom for Aibileen just so she can seem more wealthy and fit in with Hilly and her high society friends.

Elizabeth Leefolt Quotes in The Help

The The Help quotes below are all either spoken by Elizabeth Leefolt or refer to Elizabeth Leefolt. 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 1 Quotes

Got to be the worst place in the world, inside a oven. You in here, you either cleaning or you getting cooked. Tonight I just know I’m on have that dream I’m stuck inside and the gas gets turned on. But I keep my head in that awful place cause I’d rather be anywhere sides answering Miss Leefolt’s questions about what Miss Skeeter was trying to say to me. Asking do I want to change things.

Related Characters: Aibileen Clark (speaker), Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, Elizabeth Leefolt
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Skeeter has a brief conversation with Aibileen in the kitchen, during which Skeeter expresses disgust about Hilly's Home Help Sanitation Initiative and naively asks Aibileen if she wishes she could "change things." Aibileen then starts to clean the oven. With her head inside the oven, Aibileen reflects on the oven's interior—a hot, stifling place which is intimately associated with domestic servitude ("cooking and cleaning"). This suffocating space functions as a compressed symbol of the South; although its small size contrasts with the expansive plantations on which slaves toiled, the oven represents the smaller homes which now limit the lives of female Southern workers in the 1960s. And racism is still what forces that limitation, as Aibileen keeps her head in the oven to avoid the repercussions of Miss Leefolt's racism and oppressive power over her.

However, our narrator Aibileen does not directly describe this symbolism herself. She has worked as a housemaid for decades and does not believe that she could suddenly have the power to "change things." At the moment, in fact, she is trying to avoid facing the repercussions for Skeeter's actions. Right now, Aibileen's employer Elizabeth Leefolt is lingering in the kitchen, upset and curious about Aibileen and Skeeter's previous conversation. If Miss Leefolt directly asks Aibileen about Skeeter's question and this previous conversation, then Aibileen would be forced to tell her about Skeeter's critique of the status quo. And Aibileen knows that, given Miss Leefolt's racism and the power she holds over Aibileen, it would be Aibileen whom Leefolt would blame, not Skeeter.

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Chapter 2 Quotes

I put the iron down real slow, feel that bitter seed grow in my chest, the one planted after Treelore died. My face goes hot, my tongue twitchy. I don’t know what to say to her. All I know is, I ain’t saying it. And I know she ain’t saying what she want a say either and it’s a strange thing happening here cause nobody saying nothing and we still managing to have us a conversation.

Related Characters: Aibileen Clark (speaker), Elizabeth Leefolt, Treelore
Related Symbols: Bathrooms , The Bitter Seed
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

While Aibileen was ironing, Miss Leefolt comes over to inform Aibileen that she has a "surprise" for Aibileen: "her very own bathroom" in the garage. However, Miss Leefolt is not just giving Aibileen a bathroom to use; she is implying that Aibileen is unsanitary, and so shouldn't share a bathroom with the white family she works for. In this conversation, Miss Leefolt keeps her racist thoughts and racist fears about supposed "diseases" superficially hidden under not just a veneer of politeness, but a veneer of generosity: her "gift" of a bathroom for Aibileen is in fact a way to stop Aibileen from using the same bathrooms that Miss Leefolt and her family use, and to keep Aibileen feeling separate and dehumanized. Aibileen similarly keeps her true reactions to herself, making this conversation a case of "nobody saying nothing." 

Miss Leefolt and Aibileen keep their feelings hidden as well as their words. Aibileen particularly describes her emotions as a "bitter seed ... in my chest," which she first felt after her skinny, bookish son Treelore was crushed by a tractor during a work shift. Treelore was not physically suited for such a demanding mill job, but had to resort to such work because of the racist social structure in which he lived. Yet Treelore's sacrifice was not in vain; it motivates Aibileen throughout the novel, first making her "tongue twitchy" but eventually encouraging her to say her words in stories if she cannot say them directly. 

Chapter 14 Quotes

I feel my lip curling. A course we different! Everbody know colored people and white people ain’t the same. But we still just people! Shoot, I even been hearing Jesus had colored skin living out there in the desert. I press my lips together.

Related Characters: Aibileen Clark (speaker), Hilly Holbrook, Elizabeth Leefolt
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:

One afternoon, Hilly brings her children over to Miss Leefolt's and, while the children are playing, Hilly tries to prod Aibileen into saying that she would prefer segregated schools. When Aibileen refuses to comply with Hilly's implicit command, Hilly responds that "colored people and white people are just so... different."

Now, Aibileen must revert back to her silence; she could only briefly stand up to Hilly. Turning quiet, she reflects that white and black folks are indeed different, but are both "just people." This quote essentially captures the (rather over-simplistic) "moral" of the book—that if everyone would fully recognize that blacks and whites are both "just people," racism would end.

Furthermore, it's likely that Jesus—the supposed center of these religious white women's lives—himself "had colored skin." When Aibileen comments on this, she draws our attention to other characters' hypocritical practice of religion. Religion is a complicated force in The Help: we see Aibileen selflessly use prayer to intercede for other members of her community; we see Skeeter pretend to participate in religious gatherings or initiatives in order to disguise her true activities (while she works on her book with Aibileen and Minny); and we see Miss Hilly wholeheartedly believe she is a Christian, despite her attempts to dehumanize the black individuals around her.

After while, my mind done drifted to where I wish it wouldn’t. I reckon I know pretty well what would happen if the white ladies found out we was writing about them, telling the truth a what they really like. Womens, they ain’t like men. A woman ain’t gone beat you with a stick. Miss Hilly wouldn’t pull no pistol on me. Miss Leefolt wouldn’t come burn my house down.
No, white womens like to keep they hands clean. They got a shiny little set a tools they use, sharp as witches’ fingernails, tidy and laid out neat, like the picks on a dentist tray. They gone take they time with em.

Related Characters: Aibileen Clark (speaker), Hilly Holbrook, Elizabeth Leefolt
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:

Earlier that afternoon, Aibileen heard Miss Hilly tell Elizabeth "I read it," in regards to something in Skeeter's satchel. Aibileen knows that Hilly might have read her stories, but there is nothing she can do in this situation; she can't even call Skeeter because it would be too difficult to explain why a black woman is calling Skeeter's house. Aibileen can only think about the possible repercussions of her stories. She knows that, if white women such as Hilly or Elizabeth found out, they would use indirect means ("a shiny little set a tools") such as gossip, firing, and manipulation to ensure that Aibileen would lose her life as she knew it—her job, home, and stability. 

As Aibileen here describes, and Minny's difficulty finding a job revealed, a white woman can be just as much of a cruel, racist segregationist as her man, although she uses less obvious means. These white women gain their unfortunate power because of their ability to hold a grudge and "take their time." Because women with maids are typically women in well-off homes who lack major economic worries, they can afford to take whatever time they need to fully satisfy their grudge and destroy the lives of those who are powerless. 

Chapter 22 Quotes

“She needs to learn that she can’t carry on this way. I mean, around us it’s one thing, but around some other people, she’s going to get in big trouble.”
“It’s true. There are some racists in this town,” Miss Leefolt say. Miss Hilly nod her head, “Oh, they’re out there.”

Related Characters: Hilly Holbrook (speaker), Elizabeth Leefolt (speaker), Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan
Related Symbols: Bathrooms
Page Number: 343
Explanation and Analysis:

After Skeeter edits a newsletter announcement so that members of the League drop off old toilets instead of coats at Hilly's house, Hilly removes Skeeter from bridge club and discusses her other plans against Skeeter with Elizabeth. According to Hilly, Skeeter could "get in big trouble" for carrying around the Jim Crow laws pamphlet, as there are "some racists in this town," as Elizabeth says, who might more severely punish Skeeter.

Here, we see that Hilly's hypocritical kind of "help" extends to her former friends as well; she frames Skeeter's punishments as gifts that will help Skeeter learn an essential lesson. We also see Elizabeth and Hilly describe racism in terms of particular individuals who are "racists." These "racists" perform physical actions that display their beliefs, whereas Hilly and Elizabeth do not. This contrast—between physical violence and more psychological and social realities—is what allows Elizabeth and Hilly to (hypocritically) maintain their own self-identity as well-meaning individuals.

Chapter 34 Quotes

I walk out the back door, to the terrible sound a Mae Mobley crying again. I start down the driveway, crying too, knowing how much I’m on miss Mae Mobley, praying her mama can show her more love. But at the same time feeling, in a way, that I’m free…Freer than Miss Leefolt, who so locked up in her own head she don’t even recognize herself when she read it. And freer than Miss Hilly. That woman gone spend the rest a her life trying to convince people she didn’t eat that pie. I think about Yule May setting in jail. Cause Miss Hilly, she in her own jail, but with a lifelong term.

Related Characters: Aibileen Clark (speaker), Hilly Holbrook, Elizabeth Leefolt, Mae Mobley Leefolt, Yule May
Related Symbols: Minny’s “Special Ingredient” Pie
Page Number: 521
Explanation and Analysis:

After Hilly accuses Aibileen of stealing silver and makes Elizabeth fire her, Aibileen leaves the Leefolt's home for the last time. Like Minny, who recently decided to leave her abusive husband, Aibileen now feels free to decide her future. She is no longer stuck caring for others' children; instead of providing Mae Mobley with daily love, she will only hope that Mae Mobley will experience such love in the future. Aibileen's storytelling has cost her a former way of life, but it provides her with the internal power to determine a more fulfilling future. 

Aibileen recognizes how her storytelling simultaneously removed some of Hilly's freedom; Hilly will forever try to convince others that she did not "eat that pie." The truth of Aibileen's stories set her free, but Hilly's willingness to engage in lies makes her lack freedom, "in her own jail ... with a lifelong term." As The Help closes, we see Hilly as a kind of chained figure, no longer the character with the most authority and control.

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Elizabeth Leefolt Character Timeline in The Help

The timeline below shows where the character Elizabeth Leefolt appears in The Help. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
...children in her life and now she helps raise one more: the 2-year-old Mae Mobley Leefolt. Miss Elizabeth Leefolt, the 23-year-old mother, feels little love for her child, even avoiding any... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Aibileen resents Miss Leefolt for taking pleasure in telling her what to do. Miss Leefolt lives in a small... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
...could change things. Without any sign of emotion, Aibileen says that everything is fine. Miss Leefolt interrupts their conversation and Miss Skeeter leaves. Upset that Aibileen was talking to her white... (full context)
Chapter 2
Racism Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...government never expands or develops despite the growing black population. On the bus from Miss Leefolt’s neighborhood to her own, Aibileen sees a group of maids surrounding Minny, who’s entertaining them... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Social Class  Theme Icon
Two days after the talk about the bathroom, Aibileen arrives at work where Mister Raleigh Leefolt (Miss Leefolt’s husband) is yelling at Miss Leefolt for wanting to a build a separate... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Social Class  Theme Icon
The next morning, construction at the Leefolt house starts on the separate bathroom in the carport (an outdoor shelter for cars consisting... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
The next day, a woman named Celia Foote calls the Miss Leefolt’s residence and speaks to Aibileen. She wants to join the Children’s Benefit, an organization Miss... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Social Class  Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
The bathroom is ready by the next afternoon. Miss Leefolt tells Aibileen, who feels the bitter seed growing in her chest, that she should be... (full context)
Chapter 5
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
...her so quickly, threatening to fire her for just making a joke. Skeeter, Hilly, and Elizabeth Leefolt have been friends since elementary school. Skeeter and Hilly went to college together at... (full context)
Chapter 6
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
...The real Miss Myrna had a mental breakdown. With no housecleaning experience, Skeeter goes to Elizabeth’s house to ask her maid, Aibileen, for advice on common cleaning problems. Elizabeth agrees to... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
On a day when Elizabeth is out of the house, Skeeter returns to Aibileen for more advice. With Elizabeth out,... (full context)
Chapter 7
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
...Aibileen finds the bathroom in the carport a cold and isolating place. After witnessing Miss Leefolt berate her daughter for not eating in her high chair, Aibileen decides that she will... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
When Miss Leefolt comes home, Mae Mobley runs to Aibileen’s bathroom to show her mother her new skill.... (full context)
Chapter 8
Racism Theme Icon
A few days later, Skeeter arrives at Elizabeth’s to ask Aibileen more questions about housekeeping. After a few questions, Skeeter brings out an... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...While Skeeter waits two hours for the product to take effect, she remembers going to Elizabeth’s house with Hilly. When Aibileen had brought them coffee, Hilly asked Aibileen demeaning, rhetorical questions... (full context)
Chapter 12
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Social Class  Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
The following day, Skeeter plays bridge with Elizabeth and Hilly at Elizabeth’s. Elizabeth announces that she is pregnant and that the baby is... (full context)
Chapter 14
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
On a hot March 1963 day, Miss Leefolt and Miss Hilly watch their children play in a plastic kid’s pool at the Leefolt’s.... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Miss Hilly turns away from Aibileen and starts telling Miss Leefolt that her husband is running for office and she can’t have civil rights sympathizers in... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
...says it’s unlikely that Hilly knows about Aibileen or Minny’s involvement since Hilly hasn’t made Elizabeth Leefolt fire her. Aibileen decides to continue working on the stories despite the risk. (full context)
Chapter 15
Racism Theme Icon
Social Class  Theme Icon
A few days later, Miss Hilly invites Miss Leefolt and her child to the fancy country club. Miss Leefolt brings Aibileen so that Aibileen... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
At the club, Miss Skeeter is playing tennis and comes over to Miss Leefolt and Miss Hilly. Skeeter tries to start a conversation, but Hilly is cold towards her,... (full context)
Chapter 22
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
On Mae Mobley’s third birthday, Aibileen prepares her a special breakfast while Miss Leefolt is off getting her hair done. Mae Mobley tells Aibileen that she is her “real... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Social Class  Theme Icon
The day after Mae Mobley’s birthday party, which Aibileen wasn’t invited to, Miss Leefolt receives an irate phone call from Miss Hilly. Miss Leefolt rushes out of the house... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Later at Miss Leefolt’s, Miss Hilly shows her Skeeter’s Jim Crow book and says they have to stop whatever... (full context)
Chapter 23
Social Class  Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
During one of Elizabeth Leefolt’s bridge games, Aibileen opens the door for Celia Foote. She’s come to ask Miss... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Celia mentions her maid Minny and Miss Leefolt’s “recommendation” for Minny. When Celia leaves, Aibileen hears Miss Leefolt tell Hilly she never recommended... (full context)
Chapter 24
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Chapter 29
Racism Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
From the kitchen of Miss Leefolt’s, Aibileen watches Mae Mobley plays with her newborn brother, Ross, who is only a few... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 31
Racism Theme Icon
Aibileen sees the book on Miss Leefolt’s nightstand and worries each time Leefolt’s bookmark inches closer to the second chapter – the... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
The next day, Aibileen sees that Leefolt has already read past the second chapter. Since she doesn’t treat Aibileen any differently, Aibileen... (full context)
Chapter 33
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
...give her the letter. She tells Skeeter that she knows that Aibileen told stories about Elizabeth Leefolt because of a small, identifying detail she included about Elizabeth’s house. She implies she’s... (full context)
Chapter 34
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
At Miss Leefolt’s, Mae Mobley is playing with her little brother Ross, still only a few months old,... (full context)
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While Aibileen is at work at the Leefolt’s the next day, Hilly and Miss Leefolt call Aibileen into the parlor. Hilly accuses her... (full context)
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Miss Leefolt fires Aibileen but Hilly says it’s not worth pressing charges. Aibileen leaves the house and... (full context)