The Help

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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

Taking care a white babies, that’s what I do, along with all the cooking and the cleaning. I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime. I know how to get them babies to sleep, stop crying, and go in the toilet bowl before they mamas even get out a bed in the morning.

Related Characters: Aibileen Clark (speaker)
Related Symbols: Bathrooms
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

As The Help opens in Chapter One, Aibileen describes Mae Mobley’s birth and then immediately says these words. Though this quote serves as Aibileen’s first self-introduction, it do not directly inform us about Aibileen’s own past. Rather, it fittingly describes our compassionate protagonist as she relates to others (such as the seventeen children she raised). Aibileen's story (through Skeeter's writing) will become a force of social change, a story which benefits a society.

This introduction gives us a sense of who this society is. Although Aibileen does not directly mention that she lives in Jackson, Mississippi, her dialect already suggests this Southern setting. She also alludes to the tensions between Southern maids and "mamas," who co-exist in the same homes yet are divided by institutionalized and personal racism. Perhaps the most blatant sign of this personal racism occurs when housewives forbid their maids from using their houses' restrooms; the "toilet bowl" and the bathroom become particularly fraught with cultural tensions as The Help continues.

In this first quote we are also introduced to the way Stockett tries to replicate a Southern Black dialect in her narrative. While this is most historically realistic in writing from the perspective of a character like Aibileen, and Stockett seems to be well-intentioned, this conceit also been seen as condescending and even racist by many critics—those who essentially claim that no matter Stockett's personal intentions, the long history of oppression and racism in America make it inappropriate for a white woman to casually assume the dialect of a black maid in order to further her own personal causes (like selling this book).


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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.

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 4 Quotes

She’s got so many azalea bushes, her yard’s going to look like Gone With the Wind come spring. I don’t like azaleas and I sure didn’t like that movie, the way they made slavery look like a big happy tea party. If I’d played Mammy, I’d of told Scarlett to stick those green draperies up her white little pooper. Make her own damn man-catching dress.

Related Characters: Minny Jackson (speaker), Celia Foote, Mammy , Scarlet O’Hara
Related Symbols: Bathrooms , The Mimosa Tree
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

While working as Celia Foote's maid, Minny watches the television show "The Guiding Light" each day. Celia Foote rather unusually joins her maid during this ritual. Right now, while "The Guiding Light" is on the television, Celia is lying on the couch, staring through the back window and looking at the azalea bushes.

Minny looks out at these bushes as well. Like the antiques and heirlooms in the Foote's mansion, these bushes reflect Mississippi's past. They remind Minny of the beautiful setting of the movie "Gone with the Wind," and the way that nostalgic views of the South's past cover up slavery's brutality. Celia Foote—a welcoming employer—starkly contrasts with most white women from the South's past and present. 

Minny particularly thinks about Mammy, the slave from the movie who helped Scarlett make a "man-catching dress." Like Mammy, Minny is helping a white woman attract and please her man. Instead of helping Celia improve her appearance, though, Minny allows Celia to claim credit for all of Minny's cooking—and hopefully gain her husband's respect. Despite Celia's good intentions and charms, she is still using Minny just as Scarlett used Mammy in "Gone with the Wind."

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. 

Chapter 6 Quotes

I wonder if I’ll ever write anything worth anything at all. I turn when I hear Pascagoula’s knock on my door. That’s when the idea comes to me.
No. I couldn’t. That would be... crossing the line.
But the idea won’t go away.

Related Characters: Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (speaker), Pascagoula
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

After Skeeter receives another letter from Elaine Stein (the editor at Harper & Row Publishers who personally rejected Skeeter's job application and encouraged Skeeter to send her an original piece of journalism "about what disturbs you"), and Stein rejects all of Skeeter's unoriginal ideas, Skeeter notices the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men on her window ledge. Inspired by this book, which describes and pictures the lives of Southern sharecroppers who lived during the Great Depression, Skeeter has "the idea": the (admittedly inspired and not entirely original) thought to write and publish a depiction of how black Southern maids must now live.

Skeeter knows that she could be "crossing the line" if she sees this idea to fruition; she is cognizant of the social and racist boundaries which would cause others to view her project with anger, hostility, or any particular form of disapproval. Yet Skeeter is a stubborn individual; this idea has taken root in her mind, and some combination of altruism (for the plight of maids such as her beloved Constantine) and selfishness (for her own journalistic career and sense of righteousness) will impel her to more forward with "the idea" that "won't go away" any more than her resolve will.

Chapter 7 Quotes

I want to yell so loud that Baby Girl can hear me that dirty ain't a color, disease ain't the negro side of town. I want to stop that moment from coming – and it come in every white child's life – when they start to think that colored folks are not as good as whites.

Related Characters: Aibileen Clark (speaker), Mae Mobley Leefolt
Related Symbols: Bathrooms
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

After Miss Hilly sees Mae Mobley attempt to use Aibileen's toilet, she orders Aibileen to leave her alone with her daughter -- only to repeatedly spank Mae Mobley and, in supposedly whispered tones, declare that Aibileen and her bathroom are "dirty" and ridden with "disease." This disturbing scene impels Aibileen to want to scream the truth (that, as she remarks, "dirty ain't a color, disease ain't the negro side of town"). However, Aibileen cannot say anything in this situation, as she stands in her employer's kitchen. Again we see Aibileen's inability to share her thoughts and words because of her relatively powerless position in society.

Aibileen knows that Mae Mobley will, eventually, "start to think" of black people as inferior. This fact underscores the conditioned nature of racism; racist thoughts are inspired by cultural and social surroundings. Children such as Mae Mobley must be taught to be racist. For now, though, Mae Mobley serves as a reminder that change may happen in the future and in future generations.

Chapter 8 Quotes

Aibileen just stood there and I wished I wasn’t in the room. Please, I thought, please don’t say thank you.
“Yes ma’am.” Aibileen opened a drawer and reached inside, but Hilly kept looking at her. It was so obvious what she wanted.
Another second passed with no one moving. Hilly cleared her throat and finally Aibileen lowered her head. “Thank you, ma’am,” she whispered. She walked back into the kitchen. It’s no wonder she doesn’t want to talk to me.

Related Characters: Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (speaker), Aibileen Clark, Hilly Holbrook
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:

While Hilly is at Elizabeth's house one day, Hilly tells Aibileen that her husband was responsible for the construction of Aibileen's bathroom. After Hilly describes this, she clearly waits for Aibileen to say thank you, creating the silence and social tension present in this passage. Hilly acts as if Aibileen's bathroom is a gift (a form of "help" for the help), ignoring this bathroom's other implications: that black women are "dirty" or disease-ridden and that racially-segregated spaces are more suitable than integrated ones.

Skeeter knows that this form of help from the Holbrooks is hypocritical, but again her view of social degradation becomes about Skeeter's own emotions. Skeeter reflects that Aibileen likely doesn't want to talk to her because of her friendship with Hilly. Of course, Aibileen could also not wish to talk to Skeeter because of Skeeter's own actions. Earlier, Skeeter attempted to bribe Aibileen into participating in her project. Skeeter tried to give Aibileen an envelope of money, as thanks for her help with the Miss Myrna letters but also as an incentive to encourage Aibileen to share her story as a maid. As we've seen earlier, even Skeeter is hypocritical; she'd like to help AIbileen but she'd also like to help herself.

Chapter 10 Quotes

It’s something about that word truth. I’ve been trying to tell white women the truth about working for them since I was fourteen years old…Truth. It feels cool, like water washing over my sticky-hot body. Cooling a heat that’s been burning me up all my life.
Truth, I say inside my head again, just for that feeling.

Related Characters: Minny Jackson (speaker), Aibileen Clark, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

Before their church service starts, Aibileen tells Minny about Skeeter's idea to publish a book that tells the truth about black maids' lives. Aibileen had asked Minny to come early to church for this, but Aibileen pretends that she is not going to tell Skeeter her story (because "we don't want a bring all that mess up" and "tell people the truth"). Yet Minny can see through Aibileen's deception and realizes that Aibileen is actually planning on working with Skeeter on this project.

This concept of telling the truth is particularly resonant for Minny in general and in this moment. Through her sass and humor, Minny has been attempting to tell the truth since she first worked for a white woman at the age of fourteen (and was, at that point, fired for sharing her true thoughts). Through helping with Skeeter's project, Minny could speak her story more directly.

Here, Minny also describes the "heat" inside her—a motivating force similar to Aibileen's "bitter seed." Minny and Aibileen both have largely internal motivations for participating in Skeeter's book.

Chapter 11 Quotes

On my drive home, I want to kick myself. For thinking I could just waltz in and demand answers. For thinking she’d stop feeling like the maid just because we were at her house, because she wasn’t wearing a uniform.

Related Characters: Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (speaker), Aibileen Clark
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

As Skeeter first tries to interview Aibileen about her experiences, Aibileen is terrified. She is only physically able to give short answers, before she, nauseous, leaves the room and likely vomits. The short interview then ends and Skeeter leaves Aibileen's house to drive home. 

Finally, we see Skeeter begin to understand her limited perspective. She realizes that Aibileen's job as a maid is more than just a job; it is a confining way of life (so Aibileen cannot "stop feeling like the maid" as soon as she is away from her employers). Skeeter—the white, recent college graduate who is admittedly uninformed about the recent civil rights developments and dangers—begins to see that she is trying to "demand answers" which are difficult to give. She is asking black maids to participate in a dangerous act that violates Southern social norms, when they are one of the most powerless groups in that society (the maids, not Skeeter, will be punished for disrupting the status quo). Now that Skeeter realizes this reality, she finally starts to recognizes her naïveté in her desire to "kick herself."

Chapter 13 Quotes

I realize, like a shell cracking open in my head, there’s no difference between these government laws and Hilly building Aibileen a bathroom in the garage, except ten minutes’ worth of signatures in the state capital.

Related Characters: Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (speaker), Aibileen Clark, Hilly Holbrook
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

When Skeeter browses at the library and searches for books that might help her describe the lives of black domestic workers, she discovers  a booklet which details the "Jim Crow Laws of the South." She reads a few pages, "mesmerized" by the factual and direct wording of these laws, which everyone seems to implicitly know but never openly discusses. 

Skeeter makes herself stop reading because she feels this material is off topic; she is writing about maids instead of Southern legislation. However, Skeeter then realizes that "there's no difference" between these simple, matter-of-fact laws that enforce segregation and less direct attempts to separate individual blacks and whites (such as Hilly's attempt to separate Aibileen from Miss Leefolt's regular bathroom). All of the previous, more personal events of The Help are here connected to the larger legislative forces at work in the 1960s.

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.

But this bag is different. Even what would fit me in that paper sack, I can’t wear. Can’t give to my friends either. Ever piece in that bag—the culotte pants, the shirt with the Peter Pan collar, the pink jacket with the gravy stain on it, even the socks—they all got the letters H.W.H. sewn in. Red thread, pretty little cursive letters. I reckon Yule May had to sew them letters. Wearing those, I’d feel like I’s personal-owned property a Hilly W. Holbrook.

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

While Aibileen sits at her kitchen table, a cockroach scuttles under the unopened bag of clothes which Miss Hilly gave her a few months ago. Although Aibileen often uses clothes which other white women similarly give to her, she knows she could never bring herself to wear a piece of Hilly's donated clothing. The clothes—with their "red thread, pretty little cursive letters"—represent Hilly herself, and indeed have all been marked with her initials, so that Aibileen would feels as if she was almost branded with Hilly's "ownership" if she wore the clothes (a poignant echo of how slavery has ended in the South, but institutionalized oppression has not). With her put-together, elegant appearance, beautiful looking children, and veneer of politeness, Hilly seems to embody the pretense of well-meaning Southern society.  

Yet, Aibileen knows what lies under Hilly's appearances. She sees how Hilly's greed for control extends into the way she treats black people as individuals who must obey her demands (as"personal-owned property"). Hilly represents the South that Aibileen attempts to stand up against, through her writing. "Miss Hilly" was Aibileen's reason for helping Skeeter with this project, and when Aibileen refuses to use or even unpack the clothes which Miss Hilly gave her, we see that Aibileen is rising against Hilly in whatever ways she can.

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 17 Quotes

See, I think if God had intended for white people and colored people to be this close together for so much of the day, he would’ve made us color-blind. And while Miss Celia’s grinning and “good morning” and “glad to see”-ing me, I’m wondering, how did she get this far in life without knowing where the lines are drawn? I mean, a floozy calling the society ladies is bad enough. But she has sat down and eaten lunch with me every single day since I started working here. I don’t mean in the same room, I mean at the same table. That little one up under the window. Every white woman I’ve ever worked for ate in the dining room as far away from the colored help as they could. And that was fine with me…There are so many things Miss Celia is just plain ignorant about.

Related Characters: Minny Jackson (speaker), Celia Foote
Page Number: 253
Explanation and Analysis:

While working for Celia, Minny is constantly reminded how Celia's childhood in Sugar Ditch makes her ignorant about the social tension and segregation in Jackson, Mississippi. Through Celia's naivete (the way she is "just plain ignorant"), we realize that the racism in Jackson is largely upheld by members of the economically higher social class.

Celia's little actions—insisting on eating with her maid, giving Minny a friendly greeting each morning, innocently offering Minny extra money as if Minny was begging for money when she was just venting about her situation—actually grate on Minny, although they seem kind, and Celia's intentions are good. They put Minny in an uncomfortable situation: having to explain and define the social boundaries which constrict her every day as a black maid for a well-off, white woman. It's not just an employer's unkindness that might bother black maids such as Minny; the larger social structure is the real issue at hand. Celia's kindness only underscores the broader, unfortunate realities of racism and institutionalized oppression. 

Here’s the thing: I like telling my stories. It feels like I’m doing something about it. When I leave, the concrete in my chest has loosened, melted down so I can breathe for a few days. And I know there are plenty of other “colored” things I could do besides telling my stories or going to....the mass meetings in town, the marches in Birmingham, the voting rallies upstate. But truth is, I don’t care that much about voting. I don’t care about eating at a counter with white people. What I care about is, if in ten years, a white lady will call my girls dirty and accuse them of stealing the silver.

Related Characters: Minny Jackson (speaker), Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan
Page Number: 256
Explanation and Analysis:

When Minny and Aibileen walk home from church one Sunday afternoon, Aibileen asks her to come to that week's "Community Concerns" meeting, only to find out that Minny characteristically spoke up to its organizer at the last meeting and will not be coming to meetings anytime soon. Minny thinks about how much she "needs" to tell Skeeter her stories, though. 

She acknowledges that storytelling feels different from more common, more political actions that bring together the black community. Yet, to Minny, storytelling is more important. It provides Minny with a way to address the everyday racism she encounters in the home, which may seem less important (because it focuses on things like being "dirty" or "clean" and everyday actions like polishing silver) but forms the foundation of many maids' lives (because the simple accusation of stealing silver can make a maid unemployed, poor, and fundamentally stuck). As Minny's reflection reveals, black individuals may not always have the time to work towards change in the typical sense because of their family responsibilities or struggles to earn a living. Simply sharing their experiences might be all they can do, but as The Help suggests, it may be enough.

Chapter 21 Quotes

“It is my job, Skeeter! You know well as I do, people won’t buy so much as a slice of pound cake from an organization that harbors racial integrationists!”
“Hilly.” I just need to hear her say it. “Just who is all that pound cake money being raised for, anyway?”
She rolls her eyes. “The Poor Starving Children of Africa?”
I wait for her to catch the irony of this, that she’ll send money to colored people overseas, but not across town.

Related Characters: Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (speaker), Hilly Holbrook (speaker)
Page Number: 331
Explanation and Analysis:

This scene occurs moments before Skeeter calls Hilly a hypocrite for the first time and threatens to tell Hilly's hero Genevieve von Hapsburg (the national League president) about Hilly's hypocrisy. Here, Hilly is enraged that Skeeter has not included the Home Help Sanitation Initiative in any weekly League newsletter over the past five months. Hilly is also upset that Skeeter's blossoming integrationist beliefs could harm the League's image. However, Skeeter is also upset. Stuart broke up with her, she is fed up with Hilly's only superficially charitable works, and she is stressed about her mother's declining health. With all of these factors in play, finally Hilly and Skeeter's friendship begins to erupt. 

Only in this scene of anger and conflict does Skeeter so directly address a fundamental theme of The Help—the tension between help and hypocrisy. Although Skeeter has been bothered by Hilly's hypocritical ways in the past, as she heard Hilly make Aibileen say "thank you" for her garage bathroom or saw Hilly disguise her social climbing with the veneer of philanthropy for struggling communities, Skeeter confronts Hilly when her own life is already in shambles (and, for instance, she does not need Hilly to introduce her to Stuart anymore). This, of course, does not take away from the truth underlying Skeeter's comments; Hilly may not understand the "irony" Skeeter pinpoints, but the reader certainly should.

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 24 Quotes

She’s got no goo on her face, her hair’s not sprayed, her nightgown’s like an old prairie dress. She takes a deep breath through her nose and I see it. I see the white trash girl she was ten years ago. She was strong. She didn’t take no shit from nobody.

Related Characters: Minny Jackson (speaker), Celia Foote
Page Number: 365
Explanation and Analysis:

The morning after Leroy physically abuses Minny all night, Minny and Celia spot a naked white man from Celia's kitchen window. The man threatens and attacks the women, but Celia beats him with a fireplace poker. Minny finally sees Celia as more than just a naive white lady; during her time in Sugar Ditch, Celia experienced a great deal more than Minny had assumed. To Minny, Celia becomes "the white trash girl she was ten years ago"—an individual scorned by her own society but deserving of respect because of an inner strength most of the wealthy ladies in the novel lack.

This is one of the few scenes of physical violence in The Help. A sharp contrast to the mundane realm of housekeeping, this scene reminds us that the home is not always a safe space. Violence can come from within (in the case of domestic violence) or even from outside, particularly when one's home is as far from the town as Cela's is. 

This scene also suggests how separated Minny and Cecilia are from the rest of their communities. They only experienced this physical combat at all because they were so far from the police and from neighbors. Minny and Celia are strong survivors who are united by their isolation. Although Minny exiled herself from the "Community Concerns" meetings and Celia never even entered a League meeting to begin with, both of these women are united in their isolation.

Chapter 28 Quotes

“Why would you want to go stirring up trouble?”
I can tell, in his voice, he sincerely wants an answer from me. But how to explain it? He is a good man, Stuart. As much as I know that what I’ve done is right, I can still understand his confusion and doubt.
“I’m not making trouble, Stuart. The trouble is already here.”

Related Characters: Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (speaker), Stuart Whitworth, Jr. (speaker)
Page Number: 449
Explanation and Analysis:

Once Stuart begins to propose to Skeeter, Skeeter tells him the entire story about the book she is attempting to publish with Aibileen and Minny. Stuart realizes that "the town" about Skeeter's integrationist beliefs is actually true; Skeeter is more than the woman he thought she was. This inspires Stuart to rethink his decision and creates the "confusion and doubt" in his voice. Stuart cannot understand why Skeeter should be involved in the black community's problems.

Although Skeeter does understand, she continues to believe that Stuart is "a good man." She views Stuart as a fine individual, who is merely entrenched in larger structures beyond his control (and, perhaps, beyond his comprehension as well). Skeeter is caught in-between two perspectives; able to understand the culture she grew up in, yet unable to forget the true stories the maids have told her—Skeeter does not quite belong in any community anymore. 

Chapter 30 Quotes

So I lean my hand on the sideboard because the baby’s getting heavy on me. And I wonder how it is that I have so much when she doesn’t have any. He’s crying. She’s crying. We are three fools in the dining room crying.

Related Characters: Minny Jackson (speaker), Celia Foote, Johnny Foote
Page Number: 476
Explanation and Analysis:

The day after Miss Hilly receives a copy of their book, Minny discovers Mister Johnny home in the morning when she arrives. He and Celia are in the dining room and Celia has just told him about Minny's role over the past few months—and about all of her miscarriages. Johnny offers Minny a job working for them for the rest of her life and Celia asks Minny to stay in the room with them for awhile. 

In this emotional scene, Minny reflects that Celia and Johnny have enormous material wealth but she has a separate kind of familial wealth, with her five children and unborn baby. This is yet another moment where Minny is united with Celia; they are just "fools in the dining room crying." This scene displays many themes of The Help together—work, mothering, material wealth, and knowing or revealing the truth.

Chapter 32 Quotes

One time I asked him, “Why? Why are you hitting me?” He leaned down and looked me right in the face.
“If I didn’t hit you, Minny, who knows what you become.” I was trapped in the corner of the bedroom like a dog. He was beating me with his belt. It was the first time I’d ever really thought about it. Who knows what I could become, if Leroy would stop goddamn hitting me.

Related Characters: Minny Jackson (speaker), Leroy Jackson (speaker)
Page Number: 485-486
Explanation and Analysis:

Minny lies besides Leroy early one morning, afraid that he will find out about her role in the writing of the book. He hits her face but does not continue to physically abuse her because she is pregnant. However, Minny remembers the many times she faced more strenuous beatings, including the first time she wondered "what I could become" if her husband would stop abusing her. We see how personal relationships can create individual boundaries, which might be as strong as societal barriers.

This scene also introduces a new perspective on Minny's character. Always the strong woman to the rest of the world, Minny views herself as a far weaker individual. She blames herself for loving her husband and putting up with his alcoholism and abuse. Though The Help generally dwells on other societal forces more than domestic violence, with this scene, it provides an intimate picture of an abused woman. We are invited into the most private places within a home and see Minny's most intimate secrets, which she keeps hidden even as she shares other secrets to the world in the recently published book.

Chapter 33 Quotes

Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.

Related Characters: Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (speaker), Lou Anne
Page Number: 492
Explanation and Analysis:

While Skeeter picks up her mother's medicine at the drugstore, she runs into Lou Anne Templeton, a young woman who is still in the League. However, Lou Anne tells her that she would never follow Hilly's advice to fire her maid Louvenia. As Lou Anne tells Skeeter, Louvenia is a source of guidance for her, who helps her through her mental health challenges. Skeeter now sees Lou Anne in a wholly new way and reflects that, perhaps, this was the "point" of the book: for women to "realize ... we are just two people." 

Although Skeeter's reflection is moving, it significantly interprets the book in the contexts of her own, white experiences. For Skeeter, the "point" of the book is not the improvement of black maids' lives; rather, it is a more universal lesson of understanding and compassion. Even the author does not view this book as solely a work of social justice. This scene captures how complicated this book's meanings are. 

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.

The sun is bright but my eyes is wide open. I stand at the bus stop like I been doing for forty-odd years. In thirty minutes, my whole life’s . . . done. Maybe I ought to keep writing, not just for the paper, but something else, about all the people I know and the things I seen and done. Maybe I ain’t too old to start over, I think and I laugh and cry at the same time at this. Cause just last night I thought I was finished with everthing new.

Related Characters: Aibileen Clark (speaker)
Page Number: 522
Explanation and Analysis:

The Help ends on an uncertain note. Though Aibileen, Minny, and the other maids have had too-determined futures of housekeeping, and Skeeter has been stuck in various characters' expectations (such as Stuart's and her mother's), now these characters have new lives looking forward. Minny and Skeeter have moved on from their old homes and Aibileen has moved beyond Mae Mobley, her almost-daughter. The future is circumscribed in "maybe."

Yet, Aibileen's eyes are "wide open." She realizes that she has a future, although she does not know exactly what it is. The book did help her, although it initially cost her a job. Of course, it did not help her as much as it helped Skeeter. Skeeter has a new city, a new job, and, fittingly, new hair. Aibileen does not have any of these benefits. Though The Help described a genuine friendship between a black maid and a young white woman, it also suggests that there is much more social progress to be made, until characters such as Skeeter and Aibileen can be truly equal and have equally promising "new" beginnings. 

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