The Help

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Minny’s “Special Ingredient” Pie Symbol Analysis

Minny’s “Special Ingredient” Pie  Symbol Icon
Minny is famous for her chocolate-custard pies, and many people have hired her just to get their hands on her cooking. Minny’s food is so good that her employers will tolerate her “sass” and outspoken personality just so they can continue eating her food. Minny takes pride in her baking skills, and the pies are her signature dish, the outward manifestation of her unique talents and the guarantee that her employers won’t fire her for expressing herself in the otherwise repressive environment of the white household. But Minny also uses pies to subvert the power dynamics in the home. After Miss Hilly jeopardizes Minny’s chances of ever finding work again, Minny makes a chocolate custard pie including the “special ingredient” of her own feces, and watches Hilly savor two slices of it before telling her the truth. Minny humiliates and degrades Hilly as an act of revenge, but also gains a kind power over her. Now Minny has something to hold over Hilly’s head, a secret she can reveal if Hilly continues to spread rumors about her. This act of subversion also targets Hilly’s racist belief that black people carry diseases. In essence, by feeding Hilly two slices of excrement pie without her getting sick, Minny illustrates in a decidedly extreme way the simple truth that black people do not carry racially-specific diseases.

Minny’s “Special Ingredient” Pie Quotes in The Help

The The Help quotes below all refer to the symbol of Minny’s “Special Ingredient” Pie . 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 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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Minny’s “Special Ingredient” Pie Symbol Timeline in The Help

The timeline below shows where the symbol Minny’s “Special Ingredient” Pie appears in The Help. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
...tell Aibileen what she did, Minny just says it had something to do with a pie. (full context)
Chapter 25
Social Class  Theme Icon
...silent auction for the Poor Starving Children of Africa fund, Hilly wins Minny’s famous chocolate-custard pie. For some reason, Hilly seems distressed that she won the pie, thinking that someone must... (full context)
Social Class  Theme Icon
...completely ignores Celia’s attempt at friendship and accuses Celia of signing her up for the pie, but Celia, confused, says she didn’t sign anyone up for any pie. Hilly calls her... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
...mother, Miss Walters, comes over and says she was the one who bid on the pie. Walters says she may be forgetting a lot in her old age, but she will... (full context)
Chapter 26
Social Class  Theme Icon
...worst thing about the night of the Benefit was being called a liar about the pie in front of everyone. She doesn’t even know what Hilly was talking about. (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Minny decides to tell Celia about what happened with Hilly and the pie, hoping it will make Celia see that Hilly is a cruel person not worth getting... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Minny goes home, bakes a chocolate pie, and then returns to the house and gives it to Hilly, who thinks it’s a... (full context)
Chapter 27
Racism Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 30
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
...think when she gets to the last chapter – the one about her and the pie. When Minny arrives at work the next day, Mister Johnny and Celia are in the... (full context)
Chapter 33
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
...if Hilly ever tells her to fire Louvenia again, she’ll respond that Hilly deserved that pie. Skeeter thinks to herself that the pie secret is out and that the maids will... (full context)
Chapter 34
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
...is living a lifelong jail sentence trying to convince people that she didn’t eat that pie. Aibileen thinks that she might write a book about her life. Last night, Aibileen thought... (full context)