(Written from the perspective of Skeeter.) Skeeter is dismayed that Aibileen does not want to be part of the book about the lives of black maids in Mississippi. This is a problem for Skeeter because she has already told Elaine Stein from Harper and Row that she's found a maid to interview. Elaine is intrigued by this idea, and calls up Skeeter to discuss it with her. Skeeter says she got this idea from being raised by Constantine, a colored woman. Elaine points out that race and integration are the hottest topics in the nation right now, but a black maid working for a white family is putting herself in extreme danger by openly discussing her experiences. Still, Skeeter is determined to forge ahead with this idea.
A few days later, Skeeter meets with Aibileen again to ask her more questions for the Miss Myrna cleaning column. Skeeter also offers Aibileen five dollars for every article she has helped with, but Aibileen refuses the money, explaining that Miss Leefolt would not like it and that Aibileen will not help Skeeter with her book. Skeeter leaves embarrassed.
Skeeter's mother buys her a peculiar machine called the Magic Soft & Silky Shinalator, which is supposed to tame Skeeter's curly hair for her date with a senator's son. To their amazement, the machine actually works.
(Written from the perspective of Skeeter.) The day of Skeeter's date with Stuart Whitworth, the senator's son, has finally arrived. Hilly has set them up together. With a new dress and shiny straight hair, Skeeter heads into the date full of hope...which is quickly frustrated.
Because she has decided to hide the date from her parents, Skeeter has to take a tractor to Hilly's house, and she arrives extremely late to find Stuart sipping drinks in the kitchen with Hilly and her husband. Skeeter, Stuart, Hilly, and Hilly's husband head out for dinner, and Stuart orders a whiskey. Noticing Johnny Foote and his wife Celia, Stuart comments on how attractive she is, much to Skeeter's anger. He then goes on to mock her work writing the Miss Myrna cleaning column, saying that the only thing more boring than housework is writing about housework, and this all must be an elaborate ploy to snag a husband, anyway. Skeeter asks him if he was dropped on his head as a child. Hilly and her husband keep things civil, but Stuart gets more and more deeply drunk. After they leave, Hilly's husband asks Skeeter to give Stuart a ride home, because he is too drunk to drive. Stuart makes a rude comment about Skeeter's tractor and she bursts into tears. Stuart apologizes half-heartedly, saying he was just never ready for this date.
Still recovering from this disappointment, Skeeter receives a phone call from Aibileen, who has decided to speak about her experiences as a black maid; she does insist on precautions such as changing names and meeting in the colored neighborhood so that they will not be overheard. Skeeter feels a bit of apprehension as she realizes that by interviewing Aibileen she will be rooting out her friend Elizabeth Leefolt's secrets, but does not let this occupy her thoughts. Skeeter asks Aibileen what made her change her mind on this matter, and Aibileen replies with two words - Miss Hilly.
(Written from the perspective of Minny.) The first of December has come, and Celia has still not told her husband that she is receiving home help from Minny. Minny is anxious: will Celia's husband fire her, kill her, or thank her for all of the work she's done? Celia seems as frightened as Minny about the prospect of Celia's husband coming home early. Minny is also tired of Celia taking credit for all her good cooking; despite Minny's lessons, Celia's cooking skills have not improved. Despite her best efforts to ingratiate herself into the town's social circles, Celia still finds that her phone calls go unanswered because of her marriage to Johnny, Hilly's ex-boyfriend.
Aibileen gives Minny strange news: Skeeter is writing a book about the experiences of black maids in Mississippi, and Aibileen is going to help her by telling her own story - and she wants Minny to do so too. The idea is exciting to Minny (finally, a chance to speak her mind and to tell the truth!), but she thinks it's absolutely crazy.
One day while Minny is working in the kitchen, she noticed Celia turn pale and break out into a sweat; she snaps at Celia and then asks her to bring a glass of water, two things that she has never done before. Minny wonders if this is related to Celia's frequent, sneaky trips upstairs. The next day, Celia refuses to get out of bed, then runs to the bathroom suddenly and yells at Minny to leave.
Celia apologizes the next day, explaining that she was feeling poorly. But just a few days before Celia is supposed to tell Johnny that Minny is helping her keep house, Johnny comes home early and sees Minny. She's terrified, but he just laughs and says it's fine - he had a feeling there was help around because the cooking suddenly became delicious. Johnny says that Celia is determined to do things for him by herself, and that was part of the reason that she was so reluctant to tell him. He's worried about his wife, noticing that she doesn't seem happy, and asks Minny what she thinks he should do. Minny does not have an answer for this. Johnny says that he's trying to get his friend Will to make his wife Hilly spend more time with Celia, but to know avail. Minny is suddenly terrified that the Terrible Awful thing she did to Hilly will follow her even here.
So far Skeeter has been remarkable because of her consciousness regarding race and her strong-minded determination to be a writer. Chapters 8 and 9 reveal another side of Skeeter: her naiveté. She understands that black maids might be wary about being interviewed, but she does not comprehend the extreme danger that this project puts them in. She offers Aibileen money for her help in writing the cleaning column, but she is not sensitive enough to realize that Aibileen sees this as a bribe to participate in the book about the maids. Additionally, Skeeter has no idea how hazardous it would be for a black maid to be caught with a stack of money in her place of employment.
Still, Skeeter also starts to become a little bit more sensitive to the indignities endured by the black maids. At one point, Hilly pressures Aibileen into saying thank you for building her separate bathroom; only Skeeter notices how Aibileen hangs her head in disgust. Aibileen recognizes that this book project is perhaps the only way she has to safely challenge the racism of the south and to tell her story. Deeply angered by Hilly's bullying, Aibileen decides to throw in her lot with Skeeter.
Skeeter's interaction with Stuart develops the themes of love and relationships. Stuart is insensitive, rude, and possibly an alcoholic...but he is taller than Skeeter and he comes from a good family, so he's considered a catch. Still, even Skeeter cannot stand the way that he insults her at every turn, mocking her ambition and saying she is working only to get a husband. Skeeter is not terribly optimistic about the date from the beginning; she hides this date from her mother so that Mrs. Phelan won't be disappointed when it inevitably fails.
In Chapter 10, Aibileen starts to organize the other maids to contribute to the book, beginning with her friend Minny. Minny is excited about the idea, but she is also deeply afraid to put herself and her family in danger by speaking out. Given the power that white people wield over blacks, the increasing frequency of violence against outspoken blacks, and Skeeter's personal self-interest, it's hard to blame Minny for her suspicions.
Celia's circumstances grow more mysterious. What is her illness? Why does she sit around the house so much? Why does she take frequent sneaky trips upstairs? Her husband Johnny's discovery of Minny is fortunately uneventful; he already guessed that his wife hired a maid, and meeting Minny just confirmed this. However, he does request that Minny refrain from telling Celia that he knows she has hired a maid, because he doesn't want to hurt his wife's feelings. Though Celia and Johnny clearly have a loving marriage, they seem to suffer from a lack of communication.