(Written from the perspective of Minny.) Aibileen tells Minny that Hilly is telling white women to fire their maids because of Help, but she isn't guessing correctly. One maid has already been fired, and Hilly is pressuring another of her friends to send her maid to jail for talking about her secrets. The sudden appearance of Leroy interrupts the conversation, and Minny runs back in her house.
Late at night, a very drunk Leroy asks Minny what her big secret is. She refuses to tell him, and knows that it is only the child in her belly that saves her from a terrible beating. She cannot cope with Leroy's increasing violence; despite her tough talk, she is terrified to fight back against her husband. The only thing that could make this worse is if Leroy found out that she was part of the book about the maids.
As she goes to sleep one night, Minny is certain that she hears a scream come from the direction of Hilly's house.
(Written from the perspective of Skeeter.) Woken by a scream, Skeeter lies awake reflecting on her life. She's panicked that the women of Jackson have correctly discerned that the book is about their community, and she is worried about what will happen to the maids. She desperately wants to leave Mississippi, where she no longer has any friends. She has been applying for jobs outside of Jackson, but she also does not want to abandon Aibileen in the middle of this mess.
While out on an errand to get medicine for her mother, Skeeter runs into Elizabeth Leefolt and Lou Anne Templeton. After Elizabeth leaves, Lou Anne tells Skeeter that Hilly is spreading rumors that it was Skeeter who wrote the book about the maids. Hilly is also demanding that Lou Anne fire her maid Louvenia, who took part in the interviews for the book. Lou Anne says she could never fire Louvenia, who has supported her throughout her depression and suicide attempts. Lou Anne tells Skeeter that she is grateful for what Louvenia said about her in the book, and that if Hilly tells her to fire Louvenia again, Lou Anne will tell Hilly to her face that she deserved that pie. Skeeter is horrified by this - the pie story, the "Terrible Awful," is supposed to be their insurance to keep Hilly quiet. Lou Anne says she isn't even entirely sure the story is about Hilly, and in fact she heard Hilly saying that the book really wasn't about Jackson at all. In any case, Lou Anne offers her support to Skeeter. Skeeter leaves, stunned in two counts: that Hilly may have discovered their secret, and that Lou Anne Templeton is so much stronger than she ever knew.
One night, Skeeter receives a letter from a New York City address. She has no time to open it, because Hilly drives up in the darkness, looking disheveled and saying that she is going to sue Skeeter for what she put in her book. Skeeter feigns ignorance, but Hilly tells her that she will destroy her and the black maids as well, specifically naming Aibileen and Minny. Skeeter's mother, whose health has improved greatly, cuts short the confrontation. After Hilly storms off, Skeeter calls Aibileen immediately and tells her about Hilly's threat; Aibileen says there's nothing to do but wait and see what happens. Skeeter also tells them that she has received a job offer from Harper's magazine in New York City. Aibileen congratulates her, but Skeeter doesn't want to abandon her. Minny fiercely tells her that there is nothing at all left for her in Jackson, and that she better get her white butt to New York City. Skeeter makes her decision: she will go to New York.
(Written from the perspective of Aibileen.) Help is still the talk of the town. Hilly is now shrilly insisting that the book isn't about Jackson at all, but a number of white women have recognized the stories that are about them.
Aibileen chats with Minny, who tells her one of the happiest stories to come out of the situation: one maid's boss sat down with her and asked how she could be a better employer, and she really listened to what the maid said. Still, Minny is jumpy and anxious. Aibileen realizes what a profound sacrifice she made by putting the pie story in the book - she did it to protect the other maids, but she also put herself in danger.
Mr. Leefolt catches Mae Mobley and her little brother Ross pretending to be anti-segregation activists sitting at Woolworth's. Aibileen taught them this game through the secret stories she tells the children, but Mae Mobley lies to protect her and says it was her racist teacher Miss Taylor who taught her this game.
Hilly drops her silverware off at Miss Leefolt's house for Aibileen to clean, and she returns them to Hilly's house the next day. Skeeter comes to the door of Aibileen's home that night, telling her that the publishing company is going to print five thousand more copies of Help due to high demand, and the all of the maids who were interviewed for the book will be getting at least one hundred more dollars. Skeeter also tells Aibileen that she is going to be the next Miss Myrna; Skeeter told her boss at the newspaper that she had been getting the answers from Aibileen all along, and he agreed to hire Aibileen to write the column (as long as she doesn't tell anyone that she is colored). Skeeter says goodbye, because this is the last time she will see Aibileen before heading to New York.
Early in the morning, Aibileen receives a frantic call from Minny. Minny's husband has been fired from his job on the orders of William Holbrook, Hilly's husband. He tried to kill Minny, locking her in the bathroom and threatening to set the house on fire. She escaped with her children to a gas station, and is going to stay in the country with her sister for a little while. Aibileen tells Minny that she has to leave her abusive husband: she has a solid job with Celia and Johnny, and she will be getting another lump sum of money from the book. Minny decides to leave her violent husband.
When Aibileen arrives at work, Hilly and Miss Leefolt confront her. Hilly says that several pieces of her silver were missing after Aibileen cleaned them, and threatens to press charges. Hilly also tells Aibileen that Miss Leefolt is going to fire her for this. When Miss Leefolt leaves the room to check on her children, Hilly hisses that she will never forgive Aibileen for the things that she wrote about Elizabeth Leefolt in her book. Aibileen threatens to send letters to everyone in Jackson if she is sent to jail for her theft, telling them all about Hilly's incident with Minny's pie. Hilly abandons her plan to send Aibileen to jail, but still demands that Miss Leefolt fire her.
Aibileen says goodbye to Mae Mobley, who is crying loudly. She reminds Mae Mobley that she is a kind, smart, important girl. Then she leaves, parted forever from the little girl.
Walking away from the house, Aibileen also realizes how free she is. She will have a little money coming in from the book and the Miss Myrna column. She thinks about continuing to write what she has seen, about starting over and making a new life for herself.
The book about the maids has impacted racial relationships in a number of ways. In some cases, the book has had the dreaded effect of exacerbating racism; one woman fires her maid on Hilly's orders because of what she read in the book. But in other cases, the book results in a more equitable relationship between black and white women. One white woman starts to treat her maid better because she doesn't want her secrets to get out; another white woman sits down with her maid and has a true conversation with her for the first time ever.
The "insurance" that Minny added to the book (a recounting of the Terrible Awful) has the desired effect of forcing Hilly to publicly deny that the book was about Jackson. However, the women don't realize that because of Hilly's position of racial and economic privilege, she can take revenge without explaining her reasons. She uses her husband's connections to get Minny's husband fired from his job; he doesn't know exactly why he was fired but he knows his wife had something to do with it, so he attempts to kill her before she decides to leave him forever, and head to her sister's house. Hilly frames Aibileen for the minor theft of some silverware, and forces Miss Leefolt to fire her.
The separation of Aibileen and Mae Mobley is a cruel one, almost like separating a mother and daughter. Aibileen is concerned about how she will make a living, but she is even more concerned about what will happen to Mae Mobley without her. Will she become a racist? Will she internalize her mother's cruelty and neglect? Aibileen imagines a strong, powerful, adult Mae Mobley, who remembers all of the lessons that Aibileen taught her, and who respects herself and others.
All three of the main characters (Skeeter, Minny, and Aibileen) are poised on the edge of a great change in their lives. Skeeter's new beginning is a bit more promising than that of the others; though she cannot publicly claim credit for the book about the maids, her connections with Elaine Stein have earned her a position at Harper's Magazine in New York City. Because of her secure job at Celia's house, Minny has left her abusive husband after his threat to murder her; however, it is not clear how she will support her five children without his assistance. Aibileen was been fired from the Leefolt household, but she has a steady income from the book and the Miss Myrna column, and she realizes that she is free to do what she wants with her life.
The three main characters have been freed of the things that trapped them. In Skeeter's case, this was Mississippi society; in Minny's, her violent husband; in Aibileen's, her difficult job at the Leefolt home. On the other hand, Hilly is trapped by the same social conventions she once participated in it. As Aibileen wisely notes, she will be in a prison of her own making for the rest of her life, forever trying to convince people that she didn't eat the pie.