Summary and Analysis
Chapter 7 - Aibileen
Aibileen's new bathroom—which has just a toilet and small sink—has been installed in the Leefolt house, but it is no more than a little room inside the garage. Mae Mobley is being potty trained and wants to use Aibileen's bathroom, too, but Elizabeth spanks her for it.
During their Miss Myrna sessions, Skeeter and Aibileen talk more and more about what happened to Constantine. Aibileen sees that Skeeter does not understand why Constantine couldn't have raised a light-skinned child in Mississippi, but she cannot really explain it to her because of the distance between their lives. They talk more easily now, and Aibileen is surprised by her kindness and interest in maids' lives.
Louvenia's grandson, Robert, is beaten and blinded for using a white bathroom in town. Aibileen's church community is devastated by the brutality and violence which creates fear and tension in the town.
Skeeter goes to Aibileen's house at the end of a long work day and asks her to help with the book, but Aibileen refuses: "I do this with you, I might as well burn my own house down."
The differences in the white and black communities are explored deeper in these chapters. While Aibileen is suffering through the anniversary of her son's death, she has to pretend sickness to be allowed an afternoon off to grieve. When Robert, the grandson of Aibileen's friend, Louvenia, is attacked, the white women do not respond nor do they seem to understand the gravity of the situation. It weighs heavy on the black maids' minds, yet they cannot express their outrage because they fear punishment or a similar fate. Mae Mobley is too young to understand the segregation and why her request to use Aibileen's bathroom elicits a spanking from her mother. Skeeter arrives at Aibileen's house to ask for her help with the book and parks her Cadillac in front, which draws the attention of the neighborhood and could endanger Aibileen. Skeeter is oblivious because she is accustomed to going wherever she wants whenever she chooses and does not yet see how restrictive life is for the black maids. As a child, Skeeter was allowed to visit the black neighborhood with Constantine, and she often stayed the night in her home. Even a white child has a place of fear and privilege in the black community, but because Skeeter was unaware of her place; it seemed the norm to her. It hasn't yet occurred to Skeeter that her position as a grown white woman carries significantly more power and weight and could put Aibileen in a precarious position. The distance between realities for black and white women is vast and dangerous.