The Help


Kathryn Stockett

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The Help: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

On the day of the double date with Stuart Whitworth and Hilly and her husband William, Skeeter straightens her hair and buys a nice black dress. She hopes that with the new hair and clothes, there’s a chance that the date will work out.
At this point, Skeeter still feels tied to societal conventions about looks and marriage. She hopes that by conforming to white beauty standards (straight hair, nice clothes) she will win Stuart’s affection.
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Skeeter meets up with Hilly and her husband at their home. Stuart is already there, two drinks in. He’s handsome and taller than she is. The four of them drive together to the restaurant where Stuart keeps drinking and ignores Skeeter, even ogling another woman. When they are left alone for a moment, he minimizes her contribution to the Jackson Journal and insults her and her college, saying women only go there to meet men.
Stuart’s sexist and chauvinistic behavior squashes Skeeter’s hopes for love. At this moment, Stuart personifies Constantine’s words of wisdom about how ugliness is the cruelty on the inside. Though Stuart is handsome on the surface, he is ugly in his behavior.
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After dinner, the four of them drive back to Hilly’s where William asks Skeeter to drive the drunk Stuart home. Before they get into the car, she breaks into tears and Stuart apologizes, saying he wasn’t ready for a date. Skeeter runs inside and tells William to drive Stuart himself.
Stuart’s apology is his redeeming moment, showing that there’s at least some good inside of him. His apology suggests that readers shouldn’t be too quick to judge Stuart—though he already has a lot to make up for.
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Two days after the date, Aibileen calls Skeeter’s home and asks what guarantee she has that Skeeter won’t turn on her once she starts telling bad stories about white people. Skeeter says Aibileen is just going to have to trust her. Aibileen agrees to the interview and explains that she changed her mind by saying only two words: Miss Hilly. Hearing the bitterness in Aibileen’s voice, Skeeter thinks of Hilly’s bathroom bill and all the terrible things Aibileen must have heard her say about black people.
Skeeter describes Aibileen’s voice as bitter, recalling the symbol of Aibileen’s bitter seed. While we normally think of bitterness as a negative trait, here it gives Aibileen the motivation to fight against the oppression and racism that Hilly represents. Instead of letting the bitterness fester inside of her, she uses it to politically productive ends.
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