The Help

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The Mimosa Tree Symbol Analysis

The Mimosa Tree  Symbol Icon
The mimosa tree in Celia Foote’s backyard represents her repressed hatred of the gender norms that she has internalized. Throughout the novel, Celia is confined to her home, unwilling to leave for fear she will have a miscarriage. Guilty about her inability to give her husband Johnny a baby, Celia is so attached to the idea of the importance of motherhood that she imprisons herself in the home so as to increase her chances of carrying the baby to term. Though she hates the mimosa tree, she is unwilling to get out of bed and chop it down for fear of losing the baby and letting down her husband. She even describes the tree as having disgusting hairs like those of a baby. Her disgust at the thought of baby hairs reveals her repressed aversion towards motherhood, so cutting down the tree would represent her triumph over society’s expectation that she become a mother. At one point her husband plans to cuts it down for her, but ultimately he does not, symbolically suggesting that Celia must be the one to overcome the gender norms – no man can do it for her. Only after Minny—in an act of sisterhood that transcends racial divides—convinces Celia of own self-worth does she find the strength to leave the house, cut down the tree, and let go of the societal expectations that she should become a mother.

The Mimosa Tree Quotes in The Help

The The Help quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Mimosa Tree . 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 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."

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The Mimosa Tree Symbol Timeline in The Help

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Mimosa Tree appears in The Help. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Help vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...“white little pooper.” Celia says she doesn’t mind the bushes, but that she hates the mimosa tree because its “hairy flowers” remind her of “little baby hairs.” (full context)
Chapter 10
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
...has been keeping her a secret. He only came home early to cut down the mimosa tree in the yard as a surprise. He says that Celia seems unhappy but doesn’t know... (full context)
Chapter 17
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Social Class  Theme Icon
...order to get Celia out of the house, Minny suggests that she cut down the mimosa tree that she hates so much, but Celia doesn’t want to get out of bed. Minny... (full context)
Chapter 26
Racism Theme Icon
Gender and the Home  Theme Icon
Social Class  Theme Icon
Writing, Storytelling, and Freedom Theme Icon
...day, Celia takes an axe and goes out in the rain to cut down the mimosa tree she hates. At the kitchen table, Minny sees a check made out to Hilly for... (full context)