Summary and Analysis
Chapters 22-23 - Aibileen
Mae Mobley has been calling Aibileen her mama and she is getting spanked for it. Mister Leefolt also threatens to fire Aibileen if she speaks to Skeeter again.
Hilly wakes to find a front lawn full of colorful toilet bowls. Skeeter finally put the Home Health Sanitation Initiative into the League's newsletter, but she wrote that unwanted toilets could be dropped off at the Holbrook home (rather than old coats for the coat drive). Hilly is devastated and swears revenge. She kicks Skeeter out of the bridge club and makes everyone agree not to speak to her. She tells Stuart that Skeeter has ideas about changing the segregation laws in Mississippi just in case he ever thinks of dating her again.
Martin Luther King has just led the 1963 March on Washington and people are watching it on television. Aibileen is amazed by the numbers of people who attended, 250,000 and 60,000 of them were white. Then the Birmingham church bombings occur and everyone in the black community in Jackson mourns.
Miss Celia shows up unannounced at Elizabeth's house and interrupts the bridge club. She offers her help with the Benefit, but the women decline and sell her tickets to attend instead. Celia lets it slip that Minny is her maid and the lie that Aibileen told about Elizabeth's recommending her is revealed. Hilly vows to get to the bottom of the story.
In these chapters the world outside of Jackson, Mississippi, cannot be ignored. As the national Civil Rights Movement becomes more organized and more vocal, the locals of Jackson don't see change coming. People seem more entrenched in keeping things the same as they always have been, and the white people of the state express a pride in their segregation, which they claim is beneficial for both white and black people.
Fear is a prevailing theme in Aibileen's world. She fears losing her job (either for talking to Skeeter or for getting Minny the job at Celia's house) and is scared for what the future holds for Mae Mobley. She does not want her to grow up to be another privileged white woman who treats her help poorly. Aibileen encourages Mae Mobley to be kind and to love regardless of skin color, but she fears that the good she is trying to teach will be undone by the racism surrounding them both. She worries that the book project will be revealed and that the maids and Skeeter will be harmed. Fear has the controlling effect of keeping people firmly entrenched in their place, but no one can control what happens behind closed doors.