The Help


Kathryn Stockett

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The Help: Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

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 mama.” Aibileen remembers how other babies she raised would get confused like this. Aibileen recalls one of those babies who was confused in other ways too. Aibileen thinks that her worst experience as a maid was hearing the boy’s father whip him for wearing skirts and perfume. Aibileen wishes she could go back in time and tell the boy that it was okay to like boys.
Miss Leefolt is certainty Mae Mobley’s biological mother, but Aibileen is the one who gives her love and support, as a real mother should. In one sense “real” motherhood is more about how one treats one’s children, biological or otherwise, than about giving birth to them. Aibileen is also a better parent to the other child than his biological father, as she accepts the boy for who he is rather than forcing him to fit homophobic norms. This would have been progressive indeed for the 1960s South.
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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 and Aibileen and Mae Mobley follow. When they arrive at Miss Hilly’s, they see her yard covered in old toilet bowls. After they return to the Leefolt’s home, Miss Leefolt tells Aibileen that Miss Skeeter published the ad about Miss Hilly’s bill, but included a line about dropping off old toilets at Hilly’s house. Pictures of Hilly’s lawn make the front page of the Jackson Journal.
Throughout the novel Miss Hilly is concerned with regulating bathroom politics in Jackson. Now, in an ironic twist, Skeeter has people bring their toilets to her lawn as if to say, “You care so much about our toilets? Then here they are!” In this way, Skeeter humiliates Hilly and her bill, perhaps hoping to diminish her social standing, and thus her powerful and malicious influence in Jackson.
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Later at Miss Leefolt’s, Miss Hilly shows her Skeeter’s Jim Crow book and says they have to stop whatever integrationist plans Skeeter’s cooking up. Miss Hilly says they’re doing this for Skeeter’s own safety because there are real racists out there. When Aibileen later tells Skeeter about all this, Skeeter shrugs it off, saying she doesn’t care what her friends think. Aibileen realizes that Miss Skeeter doesn’t understand how badly Miss Hilly wants to ruin Skeeter’s life.
Miss Hilly and Miss Leefolt are almost farcically hypocritical in warning Skeeter against the “real racists” out there—probably the white men who lynch black people in the streets. Hilly doesn’t realize that by perpetuating racist myths, institutional inequality, and throwing Yule May in jail, she too is a “real racist.”
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