The daughter of a wealthy white Southern family, Skeeter is bit of a misfit. Unique among young women in her social circle, she is far more interested in writing than in pursuing marriage and family life. Fixated on her idea of writing a book about the lives of colored maids in Mississippi, she teams up with Aibileen and Minny. She was inspired to write about this topic because of her close relationship with her family's maid Constantine, who disappeared mysteriously shortly before Skeeter came back from college. Skeeter cannot stand hypocrisy and lies, and will often ask difficult and uncomfortable questions.
Aibileen is a gracious, gentle woman who earns her living from taking care of the children of white families, most recently the Leefolt family. She dotes on Mae Mobley, their two-year-old daughter. She still mourns the loss of her son, Treelore, who died in an industrial accident. It is this loss that motivates her to take part on Skeeter's project to document the lives of maids in Mississippi. Aibileen takes primary responsibility for recruiting other maids to work on the project in order to protect her friend Minny.
Minny works as a maid, but frequently find herself dismissed from her cleaning jobs due to her sarcastic comments. She has five children whom she loves deeply, but her husband is extremely violent towards her. She starts out working for Miss Walters (Hilly's mother), but when Hilly puts her in a nursing home, Minny finds herself working for Miss Celia, a kind but mysterious outsider with whom she develops a close relationship. She and Hilly are enemies because of the "Terrible Awful" thing that Minny did to Hilly.
Hilly is a mean-spirited racist and high society southern woman. She is the undisputed leader of the Junior League (a women's organization), and all of the other white women in the town do whatever she says. She is married to William, who is an aspiring politician. She was Skeeter's best childhood friend along with Elizabeth Leefolt, but later events cause a rift between the women.
Celia is a blond, beautiful, socially outcast woman married to Johnny Foote. Celia was raised in extreme poverty, and her marriage is not only a loving union but also a way to escape this dire economic situation. Minny works for her. Being from such an impoverished background she has never had a maid before, and so she treats Minny with far greater respect that most white women. Celia finds herself rejected from southern society because of her marriage to Johnny (Hilly's ex-boyfriend).
Charlotte Phelan (Skeeter's mother)
Skeeter's mother, Charlotte is an elegant but formidable southern white woman. She is deeply concerned about the fact that her daughter Skeeter did not find a husband in college, and she tries many different strategies to find a match for her daughter. Some of this desperation comes from the fact that she is extremely sick.
Miss Leefolt employs Aibileen to watch over her young daughter, Mae Mobley. She is harsh, icy, and frequently ignores her daughter's pleas for her attention. An angular and vain woman, she was still quite close with Hilly and Skeeter while the three were growing up. She follows Hilly's lead in most difficult situations. She has a difficult relationship with her husband, and the two often fight over money.
The son of a senator, and Skeeter's boyfriend. Initially, he is heartbroken over a failed engagement to his college girlfriend, Patricia van Devender, and is extremely rude to Skeeter on their first date -- though he later makes up for this, and the two begin a romantic relationship. He is very tall and handsome.
Constantine worked as a maid for Skeeter's family, but was mysteriously dismissed by Skeeter's mother. A tall, light-skinned black woman, she doted on Skeeter and was close to her whole family.
Hilly's husband. He is an aspiring politician, and friends with Stuart Whitworth.
Johnny is Celia's husband and Hilly's ex-boyfriend, which leads to a great deal of bad blood between the two women. He is a gentle and kind man, and he loves Celia deeply.
Elaine is an editor for Harper & Row Publishing and the person who gives Skeeter the inspiration to write her book about the maids. Elaine is a no-nonsense woman who has been in the publishing business for many years. She is not soft-spoken or gentle, but in her own rough way she encourages Skeeter to push forward with her work.
Mrs. Walters is Hilly's mother, and Minny's employer at the beginning of the book. She is an elderly woman, and very hard of hearing. She shares many traits - vanity, racism, nastiness, etc. - with her daughter Hilly, with whom she has a difficult relationship.
Elizabeth Leefolt's young daughter, Mae Mobley is two years old at the beginning of the book. She is curious and sweet, but she is deeply hurt by the fact that her mother never shows her any attention or kindness. She has a very close relationship with Aibileen.
Yule May Crookle
A regal and intelligent woman, Yule May is one of the most educated maids in Jackson, having completed a few years of college before leaving to get married. She is the mother of two twin boys. She was Hilly's maid until she was charged with stealing one of Hilly's rings and sent to jail. The black churches of Jackson put forward the money to send her sons to college.
Lou Anne Templeton
Part of the Junior League, Lou Anne is a society lady. Skeeter has known her for years, but has never found her particularly interesting. However, Lou Anne has a very close relationship with her maid, Louvenia, who supports Lou Anne through her bouts of severe depression and her suicide attempts. In return, Lou Anne helps Louvenia take care of her grandson, who was severely injured in a racially motivated attack.
A black maid known for her sweet nature. She works for Lou Anne Templeton, with whom she has a very close relationship. Her grandson Robert was beaten and blinded by white men.
The Help Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Help is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
These relationships are very different. Hilly's bridge club, as well as her involvement in the women's organization always reminds me of high school girls vying for popularity. These relationships aren't built on trust or friendship, they're...