The Help

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The Bitter Seed  Symbol Icon
Aibileen often refers to the “bitter seed” that began growing inside of her after the death of her son Treelore. The seed makes Aibileen less accepting of the white women who treat her like a lesser human being, and she often feels the seed growing every time a white woman humiliates or degrades her. The seed represents how racism can make even the most gentle and compassionate people justifiably bitter. Aibileen uses this bitterness in a productive way, however. The seed gives her the motivation to get back at the white housewives by helping Skeeter reveal their private lives in the book. If Aibileen stayed the timid, forgiving woman she was before her son’s death, then she would never have had the internal impetus to fight back against oppression and racism in her society. In this way, the bitter seed is a painful but politically beneficial reminder of all that Aibileen has endured in Jackson.
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The Bitter Seed Symbol Timeline in The Help

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Bitter Seed appears in The Help. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
...newborn Mae Mobley. The death of her son makes Aibileen feel as if a “ bitter seed ” is growing inside of her, making her less accepting of the people around her. (full context)
Chapter 2
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 happy that she has a bathroom of... (full context)
Chapter 7
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
...catch diseases if she uses the “colored bathroom.” On the way home, Aibileen feels the bitter seed growing inside her when she thinks about how Miss Leefolt is teaching her daughter to... (full context)