Summary and Analysis
Minny is anxiously awaiting the day when Miss Celia will reveal to her husband, Johnny, that the cooking and cleaning he has been enjoying for months is actually due to Minny's skills. Celia has promised to tell Johnny by Christmas Eve, and it will not be a moment too soon for Minny. In addition to begging Minny not to reveal the secret, Celia continues to act mysteriously: She rarely leaves the house, often seems ill, and is obsessed with cutting down a mimosa tree in the backyard. Minny discovers a blood stain on the bathroom floor, which she decides not to ask about. One afternoon while cleaning upstairs, Mister Johnny discovers Minny. He had come home to surprise Celia by cutting down the mimosa. At first Minny is terrified, but she soon realizes he is not angry, he is grateful. Now, Johnny does not want Celia to know that he knows about Minny.
The relationship between Celia and Johnny shows us the narrowly defined roles of white men and women in the South. On the most basic level, men work, hunt, and drink while women get their hair done, have babies, manage the help, and gossip. Ironically, only black women work outside their home and only by necessity. Celia is an outsider. She was raised in the back woods of Sugar Ditch, Mississippi, and married Johnny because, as the story develops, she was pregnant. She does not fit into Jackson society, and the women will not even return her phone calls. Celia's alienation is by the exact community she should be a part of; that is, as a wealthy white woman her place is in the Junior League, but because she is a newcomer and the wife of Johnny, who was once Hilly's boyfriend, she is rejected. She represents the outsider in the circle of women. Because of her loneliness and confusion, she clings to Minny as her only friend, even though a true friendship between them seems impossible.