Grab a glass of sweet tea and delve into our Fall 2011 read, The Help, one of the hottest books on the New York Times best-seller list since its release. The debut novel of Atlanta author Kathryn Stockett explores the relationships between a group of white women and their African-American maids in Jackson, Miss., during the civil rights era. One of the key characters in the book, “Minny Jackson,” was inspired in part by alumna Octavia Spencer ’94, who also plays the role of “Minny” in the DreamWorks movie adaptation.
Today, we’re looking at chapters 26-30, in which Skeeter’s book is finally published and she and the maids wait for the fallout. Look for the final update on The Help next Tuesday, and be sure to check for information on our next read!
Johnny calls Minny and asks her to look after Celia, who is mortified and depressed after what happened at the benefit. For days, Minny tries to get Celia out of bed, to no avail. When nothing else works, Minny reveals that the reason Hilly got mad at Celia was because she thought Celia knew about the pie. Minny finally confesses the “Terrible, Awful” thing she did to Hilly in retribution for the lies Hilly told about her being a thief. She baked a chocolate pie and brought it to Hilly as a “peace offering.” After Hilly had devoured two pieces, Minny revealed to a horrified Hilly that the secret ingredient was her excrement. Celia seems shocked by this story, but she thanks Minny for telling her. The next day, Celia is out of bed and chops down a mimosa tree she has always hated.
Skeeter calls Elaine Stein and finds out the book has to be finished and in the publishers office by Dec. 21. Ms. Stein also says Skeeter needs to include an account about her own maid, Constantine. Skeeter is becoming more and more estranged from her friends. At a League meeting, Hilly orchestrates a vote for an updated newsletter and supplants Skeeter as editor. Stuart Whitworth is waiting for Skeeter when she returns home. Skeeter, still hurt from Stuart’s rejection of her months before, turns him away, but he keeps coming back. Meanwhile, Skeeter learns from Aibileen that Constantine gave up her daughter for adoption, a decision the maid ever after regretted. Skeeter confronts her mother to learn her side of what happened to Constantine. She learns that two years before, Constantine’s daughter, Lulabelle, came to Longleaf to reunite with her mother at the same time Charlotte Phelan was hosting a DAR meeting at their home. While Constantine was in the kitchen, Lulabelle mingled with the guests, “acting white.” When Charlotte discovered who she was, she demanded Lulabelle leave by the back door. After Lulabelle spat in Charlotte’s face and refused to leave, Charlotte forbid Constantine from seeing her daughter for as long as she worked for the Phelans. She then told Lulabelle the truth about why Constantine gave her up: because she was ashamed to have a white daughter. After this, Constantine returned with her daughter to Chicago, where she died three weeks later. Skeeter writes Constantine’s story, but omits what happened at Longleaf. Minny insists that Skeeter include the “Terrible Awful” in her chapter of the book, reasoning that when Hilly reads it, in order to save her own face, she will do everything she can to keep others from thinking the book is about maids in Jackson Miss. Skeeter finishes the story and mails the manuscript in, but doesn’t know if it will make it in time.
Skeeter finds out that her mother is dying of cancer and only has a few months left to live. She and Stuart have been seeing each other once a week. One evening, Stuart proposes to her, but before she accepts, she tells him about the book. Unable to understand Skeeter’s motives or stomach what she has done, Stuart withdraws his proposal, promising, as he leaves, not to reveal her secret. Skeeter tells Aibileen and Minny that Harper and Row want to publish their book, but they only want to issue a few thousand copies. Despite the unimpressive numbers, the three women are thrilled by the news.
After six months, Aibileen is impatient for the book to be published, but worries the Leefolts will find out and fire her. Skeeter secretly brings a box of the newly released book to Aibileen to give to the other maids. Aibileen’s church community applauds what she and Skeeter have done and vow to keep it a secret, but the book is featured on a local TV show, where the host promotes it and tells viewers that it could be about Jackson. Aibileen and Minny worry that it will be easier than they thought for people to figure out who’s who in the book.
After the maids learn Hilly has gotten a copy of their book, Minny nervously awaits Hilly’s retribution. Celia , who has been told by the doctor that she will never be able to successfully bear children, tells Johnny about her miscarriages. When Johnny realizes that Minny most likely saved Celia’s life, he tells the maid she will always have a job with the Footes.
What Do You Think?
Our book is called The Help, but the maids’ book is called Help. Explain the difference. Why might Kathyrn Stockett have written it that way?