Skeeter also wakes up in the middle of the night from a scream. Skeeter wants to get out of Mississippi but she doesn’t want to leave Aibileen and the rest of the maids to deal with the fallout from the book’s publication. Feeling trapped, she realizes that the scream was hers.
Skeeter has changed so much in the last two years that she now wants to leave her hometown, family, and former friends. She now fully realizes how oppressive Jackson really is – for both white women and all black people.
At a drugstore, Skeeter picks up medicine for Charlotte, who is still alive and battling cancer. There, she runs into a woman named Lou Anne, one of the white housewives included in the book. Lou Anne’s maid, Louvenia Brown, had told good stories about her employer, including one about how Lou Anne drove Louvenia’s grandson, Robert Brown, to the black hospital after white men beat him. Lou Anne waited there all night with Louvenia. Lou Anne tells Skeeter that Hilly is spreading rumors that Skeeter was the one who wrote the book. Lou Anne says that Hilly also accused Louvenia of contributing to the book and told Lou Anne to fire her maid for speaking out against a white woman.
Louvenia’s stories about Lou Anne illustrate that not all white people in Jackson are racist employers. Lou Anne seems to genuinely care for Louvenia and her grandson and to respect them as equals. Stockett, as a white writer who loved her own black family maid, reveals her own personal bias here as well. By emphasizing that not all white women were bad to their housekeepers, she suggests that she and her family were also “one of the good ones.”
Lou Anne says that she recognized that Louvenia’s chapter was about her. Instead of getting mad, Lou Anne thanks Skeeter for writing the book. Lou Anne reveals that she has depression and that Louvenia is the only person who truly listens to her and supports her. Lou Anne felt even more grateful to her maid after reading all the nice things Louvenia said about her in the book.
Skeeter sees firsthand the positive effect the book has on at least one of the housewives. Instead of “stirring up trouble” (as Stuart accused her of doing) by creating distrust and animosity between maid and employer, the book strengthens the intimate connection between Lou Anne and Louvenia.
Lou Anne continues, saying that 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 have no protection from Hilly’s wrath. But before Skeeter can ask how Lou Anne found out about the pie, Lou Anne says that Hilly has been acting odd lately. All morning, Hilly has been frantically telling people that the book isn’t even about Jackson. Skeeter realizes that Hilly must have read the last chapter. She feels relief that Minny’s plan seems to be working.
The book does drive a wedge between Lou Anne and Hilly, however. Hilly’s influence over the other white housewives was very strong, but the humiliating story about the pie diminishes her social standing, giving Lou Anne the strength to take a stand against her. Hopefully now the white women will feel more free to think for themselves without fearing the consequences of Hilly’s anger.
Back at home that evening, Skeeter wonders what life would have been like if she had never wrote the book. Skeeter has started to grow her hair out and wear shorter dresses, but she thinks that if she never wrote the book, she would be married to Stuart, have short hair like all the other women and never wear short dresses. Skeeter goes out to her porch for a breath of fresh air. Right then, she sees Hilly’s car pull up to the house.
Skeeter’s physical appearance reveals her transformation. With long hair and short dresses, Skeeter revolts against the societal conventions that shame women who don’t follow the strict dress code. These outward rebellions reflect her inner rejection of the racist and sexist belief systems in Jackson.
Hilly, who’s gained weight and developed a cold sore on her lip, marches up to the porch with a letter accusing Skeeter of writing the book. She plans to give the letter to Charlotte, which worries Skeeter because this info will be a shock to her ailing mother. Hilly barges into the house, but when she sees Skeeter’s dying mother she decides not to give her the letter. She tells Skeeter that she knows that Aibileen told stories about Elizabeth Leefolt because of a small, identifying detail she included about Elizabeth’s house. She implies she’s going to take revenge on Aibileen and that she has “big plans” for Minny.
Hilly has also undergone an outward transformation, but instead of reflecting an inner change, her outward appearance merely reveals her true nature—and also makes her seem like an even more stereotypically villainous, repugnant character. Hilly has tried to uphold the illusion that she is the ideal housewife—beautiful and charitable like a good Christian—but Skeeter’s book unmasks her hypocrisy, showing her for the cruel, ugly woman she really is. This also provides a literal example of Aibileen’s lesson that “ugliness is on the inside.”
Skeeter calls Aibileen at her house. Minny is also at Aibileen’s. She tells them about Hilly’s threats and then says she got a job offer as a copy editor’s assistant in a NYC publishing house. She says she’s going to refuse the offer so that the maids won’t have to fend off Hilly for themselves. Aibileen and Minny tell her that she has no life in Jackson anymore and that she can’t protect them anyway. They convince her to take the job.
Though Skeeter’s desire to stay comes from a genuine desire to help the maids, she still holds the paternalistic view that black people need white people for protection—a belief that Hilly often expresses. The difference between Hilly and Skeeter is that Skeeter truly listens to Aibileen and Minny and follows their advice. It is unclear if this means she has lost her conception of herself as a “white savior,” however, or if she is just relieved to have her friends’ approval of her move. Unlike the maids, Skeeter has the privilege of simply leaving Jackson instead of dealing with the fallout from her book.