The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
It was Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Black maids raise white children, but aren't trusted not to steal the silver. Some lines will never be crossed. Aibileen is a black maid: smart, regal, and raising her seventeenth white child. Yet something shifted inside Aibileen the day her own son died while his

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Spoiler Alert
Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan comes back home after graduation; she is twenty three years old and a nice young woman. She lives in Jackson, Missisipi with her family. Her parents have cotton plantation where colored people work.

I WAS NOT a cute baby. When I was born, my older brother, Carlton, looked at me and declared to the hospital room, “It’s not a baby, it’s a skeeter!” and from there the name stuck.

We are in 1960: Martin Luther King is the leader in the civil rights movement through nonviolence and civil disobedience.
In the Mississippi History room, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan searches for anything remotely resembling race relations. She finds a booklet where there is a simply a list of laws stating what colored people can and cannot do, in an assortment of Southern states.
No person shall require any white female to nurse in wards or rooms in which negro men are placed. It shall be unlawful for a white person to marry anyone except a white person. Any marriage in violation of this section shall be void. No colored barber shall serve as a barber to white women or girls. The officer in charge shall not bury any colored persons upon ground used for the burial of white persons. Books shall not be interchangeable between the white and colored schools, but shall continue to be used by the race first using them.
Negroes and whites are not allowed to share water fountains, movie houses, public restrooms, ballparks, phone booths, circus shows. Negroes cannot use the same pharmacy or buy postage stamps at the same window as us.
The Board shall maintain a separate building on separate grounds for the instruction of all blind persons of the colored race.
They all know about these laws, they live here, but they don’t talk about them. This is the first time she has ever seen them written down.
The real dream of Skeeter is to write something that people would actually read.
She was raised by a colored woman, Constantine and she has seen how simple it can be an and how complex it can be between the families and the help.
She would like to write this, showing the point of view of the help of colored women down there.
Everyone knows how they white people feel, the glorified Mammy figure who dedicates her whole life to a white family. Margaret Mitchell covered that. But no one ever asked Mammy how she felt about it.
So she wants to show a side that’s never been examined before.
“What makes you think colored people need your help?” Minny stands up, chair scraping. “Why you even care about this? You white.”
Skeeter wants to show their perspective, so people might understand what it’s like from their side. She hopes it might change some things around there.
The interviews to the colored women are conducted secretly. Since, things are dangerous down there right: the marches in Birmingham, Martin Luther King, dogs attacking colored children.
They need to keep their identities secret from anyone outside the group. Their names will be changed on paper; so will the name of the town and the families they’ve worked for.
The project is a collection of true stories about maids and their experiences waiting on white families.

Being white, I feel it’s my duty to help them.

What would happen if someone white found out Skeeter was there on a Saturday night talking to Aibileen in her regular clothes? Would they call the police, to report a suspicious meeting?
What if Aibileen gets fired, sent to jail?
Skeeter feels like she is falling down a long spiral tunnel. God, would they beat her the way they beat the colored boy who used the white bathroom? What is she doing? Why is she putting them at such risk?
They’d charge them with integration violation, they despise the whites that meet with the coloreds to help with the civil rights movement. This has nothing to do with integration, but why else would they be meeting?
Aibileen Clark, Minny Jackson help Skeeter to write the book, telling her their story and involving other colored women.

After the next one, I start counting. Five. Six. Seven. I nod back at them, can say nothing but thank you. Thank you. Yes, thank you, to each one. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. No one is smiling when they tell me they want to help.

Minny has made this happen.
Every two days, a different colored woman will knock on Aibileen’s back door and sit at the table with me, tell her stories.
What Skeeter does know is, the responsibility of the project lays on her shoulders and she sees it in their hardworking, lined faces, how much the maids want this book to be published. They are scared, looking at the back door every ten minutes, afraid they’ll get caught talking to me. Afraid they’ll be beaten like Louvenia’s grandson, or, hell, bludgeoned in their front yard like Medgar Evers. The risk they’re taking is proof they want this to get printed and they want it bad.
Skeeter no longer feels protected just because she is white. Even though so many of the stories are good, celebrating the bonds of women and family, the bad stories will be the ones that catch the white people’s attention.
Aibileen who is fifty-three, was the smartest one in her class,
"And the only way you’re going to keep sharp is to read and write every day.” her teacher said.
And she did it.
She lost her son and she wrote about him; she reads to Skeeter about the day her son Treelore died.
She reads about how his broken body was thrown on the back of a pickup by the white foreman. And then they dropped him off at the colored hospital. They rolled him off the truck bed and the white men drove away.
Treelore wore big glasses and reading all the time. He even started writing his own book, about being a colored man living and working in Mississippi that made Aibileen proud.
When Treelore died, that t was the day Aibileen's whole world went black. Air look black, sun look black. She was laying in bed and stared at the black walls at her house. Minny came ever day to make sure she was still breathing, feed her food to keep her living. Five months after the funeral, she lifted herself up out a bed. She put on her white uniform and put her little gold cross back around her neck and she went to wait on Miss Leefolt because she just had her baby girl. But it weren’t too long before she saw something in her had changed. A bitter seed was planted inside her.
Miss Leefolt didn’t pay but ninety-five cents an hour, less than she had been paid in years. But after Treelore died, she took what she could.
She also picked cotton out there in 1931, during the Depression, when they didn’t have nothing to eat but state cheese. This was where Miss Skeeter lives on the Longleaf cotton plantation.
Aibileen explains that Miss Leefolt and her friends, talked about only three things: their kids, their clothes, and their friends. She heard the word Kennedy, she knew they weren't discussing no politic. They were talking about what Miss Jackie wore.
“Separate but equal,” Miss Hilly says back to Miss Leefolt. “That’s what Governor Ross Barnett says is right, and you can’t argue with the government. Colored people and white people are just so … different.”
Everybody knows colored people and white people are not the same. But they still just people!
"Shoot, I even been hearing Jesus had colored skin living out there in the desert. I press my lips together." Aibileen says.
She goes on telling that a first thing a white lady does is fire you.
But then a week after you lost your job, you get this little yellow envelope stuck in your screen door. Paper inside say NOTICE Of EVICTION. You start to panic some then. You still haven't got no job prospects. Everywhere you try, the door slams in your face. And now you haven't got a place to live.
Most maids stay with the same family all they lives, but not Aibileen. She has her own reasons for moving on when the children are about eight, nine years old. It took her a few jobs to learn that. She works best with the babies; most of them consider her their mother.
“Aibee, you’re my real mama.” She doesn’t even look at me, just say it like she talking about the weather.
Your mama’s off getting her hair fixed. Baby Girl, you know who your mama is.”
“I’m your baby,” she said.
She is talking about the laws of that great state.
Do you want Mae Mobley sitting next to a colored boy in English class?”
“Do you want Nigra people living right here in this neighborhood?
What’s wrong, Baby? What happen?”
“I colored myself black,” she cried.
“Miss Taylor said to draw what we like about ourselves best.” “She said black means I got a dirty, bad face.”
After all the time Aibileen spent teaching Mae Mobley how to love all people, not judge by color, she feels a hard fist in her chest.
But not the all the white women are racist, there is for example Mrs Celia, the woman Minny works for who sits down and eats lunch with her every single day since she started working there. She doesn’t mean in the same room, she means at the same table with Minny.

“But why? I don’t want to eat in there all by myself when I could eat in here with you,” Miss Celia says. I didn’t even try to explain it to her. There are so many things Miss Celia is just plain ignorant about.

Every day, Miss Celia looks like she just can’t believe Minny has come back to work. She is the only thing that interrupts all that quiet around her. Minny 's house is always full of five kids and neighbors and a husband. Most days when she comes in to Miss Celia’s, she is grateful for the peace.

I’m standing in Miss Celia’s kitchen thinking about last night, what with Kindra and her mouth, Benny and his asthma, my husband Leroy coming home drunk two times last week. He knows that’s the one thing I can’t stand after nursing my drunk daddy for ten years, me and Mama working ourselves to death so he had a full bottle.
People think big strong Minny, can stand up for herself. But they don’t know what a pathetic mess she turns into when Leroy’s beating on her. She is afraid to hit back. She is afraid he’ll leave her if she does. She knows it makes no sense and she gets so mad at herself for being so weak! How can she love a man who beats her raw? Why does she love a fool drinker? One time she asked him, “Why? Why are you hitting me?” He leaned down and looked at her right in the face.

“If I didn’t hit you, Minny, who knows what you become.”

She has been accused to be a thief by Mrs Hilly, but Minny has never stolen a thing in her life, but she told everybody she did and wasn’t nobody in town gone hire a sass-mouthing thieving Nigra for a maid and she might as well go head and work for her for free.

“I tell her to eat my shit.” Minny says " Everbody in town gone read it now.”

The only one who stole something from Hilly is Yule May who writes a touching letter to Skeeter:

Dear Miss Skeeter,
I want you to know how sorry I am that I won’t be able to help you with your stories. But now I can’t and I want to be the one to tell you why. As you know, I used to wait on a friend of yours. I didn’t like working for her and I wanted to quit many times but I was afraid to. I was afraid I might never get another job once she’d had her say. You probably don’t know that after I finished high school, I went on to college. I would’ve graduated except I decided to get married. It’s one of my few regrets in life, not getting my college degree. I have twin boys that make it all worthwhile, though. For ten years, my husband and I have saved our money to send them to Tougaloo College, but as hard as we worked, we still didn’t have enough for both. My boys are equally as smart, equally eager for an education. But we only had the money for one and I ask you, how do you choose which of your twin sons should go to college and which should take a job spreading tar? How do you tell one that you love him just as much as the other, but you’ve decided he won’t be the one to get a chance in life? You don’t. You find a way to make it happen. Any way at all. I suppose you could look at this as a confession letter. I stole from that woman. An ugly ruby ring, hoping it would cover the rest of the tuition. Something she never wore and I felt she owed me for everything I’d been through working for her. Of course now, neither of my boys will be going to college. The court fine is nearly as much as we had saved. Sincerely, Yule May Crookle Women’s Block 9 Mississippi State Penitentiary.

So, after this letter, Celia and Minny gain strength from each other, leading them to take control of their own lives and Minny decides to leave her abusive husband and chart an unknown course rather than live with the pain he inflicts.
And after reading this emotional letter Skeeter wants to know more about her maid Constantine and Aibileen told her that Constantine had a white daughter and had to give her up so she could work for her family and she feels that Constantine’s love for her began with missing her own child. Perhaps that’s what made it so unique, so deep. It didn’t matter that she was white.

Many of the stories are sad, bitter. But there are a surprising number of good stories too.
Like the story of Louvenia: she is Lou Anne Templeton’s maid and she tells Skeeter how her grandson, Robert, was blinded earlier that year by a white man, because he used a white bathroom. There was no anger in her voice at all. Skeeter learns that Lou Anne, whom she found dull and vapid gave Louvenia two weeks off with pay so she could help her grandson. She brought casseroles to Louvenia’s house seven times during those weeks. She rushed Louvenia to the colored hospital when the first call came about Robert and waited there six hours with her, until the operation was over. Lou Anne has never mentioned this to any of them. And Skeeter understands completely why she wouldn’t.
“Miss Margaret always made me put my hair up in a rag, say she know coloreds don’t wash their hair. Counted ever piece a silver after I done the polishing. When Miss Margaret died of the lady problems thirty years later, I went to the funeral. Her husband hugedg me, crying on my shoulder. When it was over, he gave me a envelope. Inside a letter from Miss Margaret reading, ‘Thank you. For making my baby stop hurting. I never forgot it.’”
“If any white lady reads my story, that’s what I want them to know. Saying thank you, when you really mean it, when you remember what someone done for you”— it’s so good.”

Also angry stories come out, of white men who’ve tried to touch them. But the dichotomy of love and disdain living side-by-side is what surprises Skeeter. Most are invited to attend the white children’s weddings, but only if they’re in their uniforms. These things she knew already, yet hearing them from colored mouths, it is as she was hearing them for the first time.
There is so much you don’t know about a person.
The help, only the help can change the world.

”The Reverend hands me a box, wrapped in white paper, tied with light blue ribbon, same colors as the book. He lays his hand on it as a blessing. “This one, this is for the white lady. You tell her we love her, like she’s our own family.” explains Skeeter.

The cover is a pale blue, color a the sky. And a big white bird—a peace dove—spreads its wings from end to end. The title Help is written across the front in black letters, in a bold fashion.
It says by Anonymous.
Miss Skeeter says the peace dove be the sign for better times to come.

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