Summary and Analysis
Chapters 11-13 - Skeeter
Skeeter and Aibileen meet at Aibileen's house for the first time to work on the book, but it does not go well. They're both too nervous and fear that if they were caught together, they'd be accused of "integration violation" which forbids white people from meeting behind closed doors in case they are helping the civil rights movement. Aibileen comes up with the idea for her to write the narrative herself and for Skeeter to simply type it. Skeeter is skeptical, assuming Aibileen does not have the skills and literacy, but she learns otherwise. Aibileen reveals that she writes every evening for an hour, sometimes two, as she prays for people in her church and community in need.
Skeeter sends Aibileen's chapter to Elaine Stein in New York, who calls Skeeter to say that the material is good but there needs to be at least 12 maids' stories to make a book and it needs to be done in six months. Aibileen has asked 31 other maids but they are all too scared to help with the project. Finally, Minny agrees to be interviewed but she sets down the rules for Skeeter.
Hilly presses Skeeter to include her Home Help Sanitation Initiative, the disease prevention measure of installing separate bathrooms for the help, into the League newsletter. At the League meeting, Skeeter accidentally leaves behind her bag, which contains notes for the maids' stories and a copy of Jim Crow regulations that she found at the library. When Skeeter retrieves the bag from Hilly's house the Jim Crow regulations are missing.
Stuart shows up on Skeeter's front porch to apologize. He says he is not a jerk and should not have become drunk or treated her the way he did on their date. Then he asks her out again. Skeeter refuses at first but then agrees. They go out to dinner and Stuart asks what she wants from life. Skeeter tells him she wants to be a writer, a journalist, and a novelist. Stuart listens, tells her she is pretty, and Skeeter falls a bit for the senator's son.
The fear and danger of civil rights keeps white and black people in their places. The risk of their secret meetings is biggest for Aibileen, but she decides that her desire to tell her story is bigger than her fear of being caught. After their first meeting when Aibileen was too nervous to talk to her, Skeeter learns that she must meet Aibileen as an equal if she wants to develop a relationship that will help the book—meaning she must convince Aibileen to see her as more than just another Southern white woman. Skeeter refuses to allow Aibileen to serve her, insists that they sit in the kitchen, and brings along bottled Cokes to share. She wants Aibileen to tell her the stories of being a black maid but not behave toward her as a black maid would. These gestures communicate to Aibileen that Skeeter just may be a different kind of white woman. Hilly, too, suspects that Skeeter may have different opinions about segregation when she discovers a copy of the Jim Crow regulations in Skeeter's bag. Hilly intimates that Stuart's political connections wouldn't be happy with Skeeter's possible views on civil rights. It is a veiled threat from one white woman to the next to leave things the way they are or else.
The theme of rules, written and unwritten, is underscored in this chapter as Skeeter and Aibileen learn more about each other. Aibileen asks Skeeter to get her some books from the white library and Skeeter happily agrees. Aibileen says "These is white rules. I don't know which ones you following and which ones you ain't" to which Skeeter responds that she is tired of all the rules, too. Through Aibileen's revelations Skeeter is shocked by how many things she simply didn't realize about the experience of black maids and how many times it never even occurred to her that the help was listening to their employers or cared. Her perspective has been sheltered and limited by the rules, but the uneasy friendship she is developing via the book-writing with Aibileen is changing Skeeter, too. Skeeter is beginning to see the true conditions of black maids and realizing it is her very own family and friends who treat them this way. As a child Skeeter loved Constantine as her maid, but Constantine as a person with her own life had never really occurred to Skeeter. She is beginning to see how much she actually missed.