The Help

The Help Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11 - 13


Chapter 11

(Written from the perspective of Skeeter.) Skeeter secretively heads to Aibileen's house to interview her for the book. She poses a number of rather dull questions to Aibileen: when was she born, did she always know she would be a maid? Aibileen provides short and unproductive answers for all of these questions, but she is caught off guard when Skeeter asks her what she dislikes most about her job. Aibileen rushes out of the room, and then returns apologizing, saying she thought she was ready to talk but she just needs to lie down for now. Dismayed, Skeeter leaves.

A few days later, Skeeter receives a message from Aibileen, who has realized that writing her own story will help her feel more comfortable answering questions. Skeeter is skeptical of this idea at first, saying that writing isn't easy, but Aibileen argues that it is not so different from writing her prayers every night. Aibileen reads aloud what she has written: being fired for miscounting the silverware, taking a white boy to a colored hospital out of desperation, and so on. Skeeter types her worlds, and is incredibly impressed with Aibileen's beautiful prose.

Chapter 12

(Written from the perspective of Skeeter.) Aibileen tells more of her life story to Skeeter: the children she has cared for, the cotton-picking she has done, and her thoughts on the separate bathroom policy. Aibileen explains the circumstances of Treelore's death: the white foreman threw his injured body in a pickup truck, then shoved him off on the sidewalk in front of the colored hospital and drove away.

Aibileen mentions that she'd like to do some reading. Skeeter tells her to go to the library, but Aibileen reminds her that the library is for whites only. Skeeter offers to check out books and give them to her, and Aibileen quickly suggests a list of twelve books. Aibileen reluctantly admits that she's wanted these books very badly but has been waiting to ask Skeeter about them, because she doesn't know which white rules Skeeter is following; Skeeter replies that she's tired of rules. Skeeter finally finishes typing, and with Aibileen's approval, she sends the manuscript to Elaine Stein.

Skeeter finds that spending time with her white friends has grown more complicated: she notices how condescendingly Hilly speaks to Aibileen, and recalls from Aibileen's stories how harsh Elizabeth Leefolt is to her own child. She still cares about her white friends, but she is even more disturbed about Hilly's separate bathrooms plan after speaking so long with Aibileen.

Aibileen calls her and says that Minny is willing to be interviewed. However, even at the interview, Minny is highly skeptical of the situation; she asks Skeeter why she cares about colored people, and why Skeeter thinks they need her help. Skeeter says that she wants to show the maid's side of things, that perhaps this will change public opinion around issues of race. Minny launches into a story about a very lazy former employer, and then storms out of the room in a rage. Aibileen notes that this was a good mood for her.

Chapter 13

(Written from the perspective of Skeeter.) Though Minny often rushes out of the interviews in a rage, she keeps talking to Skeeter about her life story. Minny points out that Skeeter isn't fighting for colored rights, she's just writing about life, and Skeeter concedes that this is true, which angers Minny.

The next day, Skeeter receives an unexpected visitor - Stuart Whitworth. Skeeter is icy to him at first (she asks if he'd like a drink or just a whole bottle of Old Kentucky whiskey), but he apologizes for the way he treated her on their date, even though that was months ago now. He explains that he had been engaged to Patricia van Devender, and this had ended so poorly that he became fearful of new relationships. He likes how Skeeter says exactly what is on her mind, and asks her to go on another date with him. Skeeter refuses at first, then gets in the car with him.

Though they arrive at the restaurant so late that the only thing being served is dessert, Skeeter has a wonderful time. Stuart asks her what she wants out of life, and she replies that she wants to be a writer. He says he hopes that she writes something good, something she believes in. They talk for a long time, and when he finally kisses her, she is overjoyed.

Not long after, Skeeter runs into Susie Pernell, a member of the Junior League, while she's getting books for Aibileen from the library. She stumbles upon a copy of "Compilation of Jim Crow Laws of the South," and she is amazed at their breadth and scope: blacks and whites are not allowed to marry, be buried in the same ground, visit the same barber, or use the same water fountains, movie houses, public restrooms, ballparks, phone booths, and circus shows. She thinks about how these laws are not so different from Hilly's separate bathrooms plan. She puts this book, as well as a book by Frederick Douglass in her bag; she doesn't check them out, because she's afraid that Susie Pernell will talk about her reading "Negro materials."

From the library, she heads to a League meeting, where she is pelted with questions about her burgeoning relationship with Stuart Whitworth (They've been seeing each other for three weeks at this point). Putting down her heavy satchel, which is filled with the stolen books as well as the transcripts of her interviews with Minny and Aibileen, she types the notes for the meeting, but then rushes out early in order to return the car to her mother. When she gets home, she realizes to her horror that she has left her satchel at the League meeting.

Terrified that Hilly will find out about her interviews with the maids, she hops into the car as her mother is driving away. Her mother tells her to get out, saying she has personal errands to run. Skeeter presses her about the nature of see errands, and she replies that they're just routine medical tests, and refuses to answer any more of Skeeter's questions. Though Skeeter is deeply anxious about her health, her mother just tells her to pick her up from the hospital in an hour or so after she gets back from Hilly's.

As soon as Skeeter knocks on Hilly's door, she knows something is wrong. Holly is curt and rude to her, rebuffing Skeeter's friendly attempts to make weekend plans. When Skeeter peers through her satchel, she realizes that her booklet of Jim Crow Laws is gone. Hilly idly points out that Stuart Whitworth's father was active in preventing the integration of Ole Miss. Skeeter leaves the house deeply shaken.


Chapter 11 offers a clear description of Treelore's death: his white co-workers manhandled and abandoned him in front of the colored hospital, not even bothering to bring him inside for treatment. This explains Aibileen's "bitter seed" that grows in response to the racism she sees all around her - her son would probably have lived through his accident if he had been white.

Aibileen's participation in Skeeter's project grows, and she becomes Skeeter's partner in this endeavor. Aibileen's use of her own writing allows her more control over her narrative; she isn't just feeding Skeeter answers, she's directing the conversation as well.

Given the social context, it's possible that the only way for Aibileen to get her story out is to place it on the lips of a white woman. A black woman (especially one who works as a maid and has little formal education) has little chance of publishing a book of her own. Skeeter realizes that Aibileen extremely intelligent and thoughtful, and contributes to Aibileen's budding writing career by getting books for her from the white library; this breaks yet another rule around race, but Skeeter has stopped caring.

After Skeeter finds the book of Jim Crow laws and sees how deeply racism in enshrined in law, she muses about the potential legal consequences of her interviews with the maids. She could be charged with integration violation, or perhaps attacked by vigilantes. A white woman who supports black people will not be tolerated in this charged political climate.

Skeeter's relationship with other white people starts to change on the basis of her new closeness with Aibileen. Looking at her friends through Aibileen's eyes, she starts to see how icy and cruel Elizabeth Leefolt and Hilly are. Skeeter's new perspective on Hilly is confirmed when Hilly goes through her satchel and takes out the Jim Crow laws. Skeeter is terrified that this breach of confidence might have exposed her work with the maids; it's also a sign that Hilly neither trusts nor respects her. Peculiarly, Skeeter has little issue giving Stuart a second chance, which is evidence of the social pressure she is under to get married.