The Help

The Help Summary and Analysis of Chapters 17 - 18


Chapter 17

(Written from the perspective of Minny.) Celia continues to refuse to tell her husband that Minny is working for them - despite the fact that Johnny already knows, and is fine with the situation (though he asked Minny to keep his knowledge a secret). Minny is puzzled by how Celia seems not to understand the rules of white society: she continues to phone Hilly and the other League ladies every day even though they have never replied, and she insists on eating all her meals with Minny.

Minny keeps telling her stories to Skeeter. It is hope for her children's future that leads her to do this. Their father Leroy refuses to have any of them take part in any anti-segregation activities, but he knows nothing about Minny's activities with Skeeter and Aibileen.

Minny finds her work at Celia's house frustrating: Celia often refuses to get out of bed or leave the house, so it's up to Minny to not only finish all of the cooking and cleaning, but to bring in the mail as well. One day, she brings in a small but heavy package that makes a strange sound, as though many tiny glass bottles are clinking together inside it. Celia thanks her and runs off with the package to the empty upstairs of the house, the place where she often mysteriously disappears. Determined to decipher this mystery, Minny decides to investigate the upstairs. Minny sees Celia lying on a bed drinking from a small brown bottle, and Minny assumes that Celia must be drinking large amounts of alcohol. Minny's father was an abusive alcoholic and her husband often drinks too much and hurts her; Minny is infuriated and disgusted that she has yet another alcoholic in her life. Later, Minny sees that the bottles are unlabeled, but "Old Kentucky" (a popular brand of whiskey) is stamped on the glass.

Minny confronts her about this during their cooking lessons, when Celia mentions that they've become friends. Minny says she'd never be a friend of a drunk; she ought to tell Celia's husband about her drinking. Celia bursts into tears and tells Minny that she's fired.

Minny goes to Aibileen's house and tells her what happened, how Celia has been so awful. Aibileen gently reminds Minny of all the employers she's had who have been so much worse than sweet, clueless, lazy Celia, and convinces Minny to go to Celia's house on Monday and ask for her job back.

Chapter 18

(Written from the perspective of Minny.) Celia isn't looking well; she goes into the bathroom while Minny starts cleaning the rest of the house. When Minny gets to the bathroom hours later, she realizes Celia is still inside. Concerned that Celia might have passed out from drunkenness, she opens the door. She sees Celia sitting on the floor near the toilet bowl, which is full of blood. Celia is pale and shaking, and her nightgown is also stained with blood. She asks Minny to get her the phone so she can call her doctor, which Minny does. Minny moves Celia to the bed, though Celia is losing even more blood.

Celia weeps with despair; she was five months pregnant when she had this miscarriage, which is her fourth such. Minny suggests that she shouldn't be drinking whiskey if she wants to stay pregnant. Celia is puzzled at this accusation, and tells Minny that she's been drinking catch-tonic of an Indian make, trying to prevent another miscarriage. Minny is relieved that she isn't an alcoholic. Celia is extremely worried about what her husband Johnny will do. He wants children very badly, but she hasn't been able to bring a pregnancy to term. She's terrified that he will leave her, but Minny assures her that Johnny loves her and would never do such a thing. Suddenly, Celia vomits and starts losing even more blood. Celia passes out from pain and blood loss, and Minny cradles her gently until the doctor comes. Dr. Tate treats Celia, but also claims she's hysterical and tells Minny that she had better not miss her Friday appointment just because she's feeling lazy. Realizing Johnny is about to come home, Minny grabs the cleaning supplies to take care of the blood.


Minny is in a truly peculiar situation: Celia is trying to hide her from Johnny, but Johnny already knows about Minny and is trying to hide this knowledge from Celia. For such a blunt and direct person as Minny, this kind of deception is infuriating, and negatively colors her whole relationship with Celia.

Because of this deception, Minny is quick to look for negative things about Celia. Her clueless kindness infuriates Minny. Her mysterious activities baffle Minny. At last, Minny satisfies her curiosity by finding out what causes her to make frequent trips up into the empty bedrooms upstairs: she's taking swigs from brown-colored bottles. In keeping with her irritation at Celia, Minny assumes the worst: that Celia is an alcoholic.

A frightening incident brings forth Minny's compassion for Celia; Celia has a miscarriage and starts bleeding uncontrollably. Minny takes care of her tenderly and cleans up the blood despite her severe aversion to the substance. Celia's trust for Minny is made clear when she tells the other woman how she has been suffering from miscarriage after miscarriage that she hides from her husband. The brown bottles are "catch tonic," a folk remedy for preventing miscarriage.

This incident brings the two women a little closer. Celia likes Minny a great deal; due to her physical and social isolation (the other white women refuse to talk to her because Hilly hates her), her bond with Minny is the only real friendship in her life. Minny is not a gentle person and still frequently refers to Celia as a fool, but her gentle actions show her true feelings.

Chapter 17 offers another glimpse at Minny's home life. Her family is not poor or desperate, but their situation is precarious. Minny and her husband, along with their two eldest children, make just enough money to support the family, and they schedule all car rides so that everyone can get to their jobs. For them, the civil rights movement is attractive, but impossible: if Minny, Leroy, or their two oldest children were imprisoned or injured, they would not be able to maintain this delicate balance that is necessary for survival. The white authorities are not the only hazard here: if Minny's small efforts on Skeeter's book are discovered, her husband could react violently.