It is the night of the Jackson Junior League Annual Ball and Benefit, the most important social event of the year. The cream of white society is present, as well as a number of black servants (including Aibileen and Minny). The women of the League (Hilly, Elizabeth Leefolt, and even Skeeter, who has become a social outcast) are dressed in elegant and conservative styles that show very little skin.
Celia Foote, wearing a tight and revealing pink dress, arrives with her husband Johnny Foote. Her attire is completely inappropriate for this solemn occasion, and prompts staring from the men and disapproval from the women. Celia has a number of alcoholic beverages and is quite oblivious to her faux pas. She is determined to find Hilly and explain to her that Johnny did not cheat on her with Celia.
The guests are all seated, and Hilly begins her speech, thanking all in attendance for their contributions to the Benefit. The silent auction starts. When Celia is in the bathroom Hilly sidles up to Johnny and flirts with him; Johnny is disgusted and brushes her away. He tells Celia nothing of this, and Celia has a few more strong drinks.
The winners of the silent auction are announced: one of the winners is Hilly, who will take home a chocolate custard pie made by Minny. Hilly, however, is absolutely furious - she is sure this must be a terrible prank of some sort, because she did not bid on the pie and she still hates Minny because of the "Terrible Awful." Minny is equally shocked at this announcement.
A rather drunk Celia takes advantage of Hilly's state of shock to chat with her. Hilly tries to leave, but Celia grabs her cuff and accidentally rips it. Hilly accuses Celia of trying to blackmail her way into the League by signing Hilly's name on the pie, but Celia is puzzled about this and tries to explain her relationship with Johnny. There is an unfortunate silence in the room when Celia loudly informs Hilly that she got pregnant from Johnny after he and Hilly had broken up, and the entire room hears this sensitive statement. Celia vomits in the middle of the room.
After the Benefit is over, Hilly discovers that it was her own mother, Miss Walters, who signed Hilly up for the pie. Miss Walters says that she will never be able to forget the thing that happened with Hilly and Minny's pie. What exactly was that? The readers still have yet to find out....
The portrayal of Celia as the strong protector of her friend in the previous chapter encourages the reader to relate to her, which makes the intensely embarrassing situation at the Benefit even more impactful. Celia wears inappropriate clothing, gets unacceptably drunk, shouts about her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, rips Hilly's dress, and vomits on the ground. Because of the reader's sympathy for Celia, this situation reflects more negatively on the stringent social rules of the Benefit than on Celia herself, who is just trying to conduct herself in an unfriendly environment.
Chapter 25 also raises the mystery of the pie. Hilly is furious at being signed up to win Minny's pie at the silent auction. Though Minny is well known for her delicious treats, Hilly is certain that only someone who wants to humiliate her would sign her up for the pie. She initially blames the drunk Celia, who is so startled by Hilly's antagonism that she vomits. It later becomes clear that Hilly's own mother signed her up for the pie, as a way of playing a joke on her daughter. Still, the reader is left with the question: what pie-related incident happened to Hilly?
This chapter is unique in being the only one in the entire book written in the third person. The effect is a more omnipotent narration, one that gives the reader the chance to experience the thoughts of all the characters. Rather than focusing on developing a character through descriptions of what she sees and hears, the author can instead focus on the event. This offers a "birds' eye view" of the event, honing in on events and images that none of the three narrators would be likely to notice or comment on. This writing method also draws the reader's attention to this chapter as a significant one, a turning point in the narrative.
The vernacular style of this chapter most resembles Skeeter' sections: it uses American Standard English, and does not employ the dialect that characterizes the speech of Minny and Aibileen. This raises a number of uncomfortable questions: why is this manner of narration used as a neutral standard, when it in fact differs from most of the writing in the book?