Summary and Analysis
Chapters 19-21 - Skeeter
As the weather in the south reaches a boiling point so does the Civil Rights Movement. Because of the news about racial tension and violence, the maids are more scared than ever to talk to Skeeter about their experiences. Yule May admits to stealing a ring from Hilly so that she can sell it and put the money toward her boys' college. She asked Hilly for a $75 loan to cover the rest of the tuition and Hilly refused. Her court fine equals what they had saved for the tuition, and she is also sent to the penitentiary. She writes to Skeeter from behind bars to tell her she cannot help with the book. Yule May should have received a six month sentence, but Hilly is friends with the judge's wife, so Yule May gets four years. Skeeter goes to Aibileen's house and finds all the maids assembled, angered by what has happened to Yule May, and now more than willing to tell their stories. Skeeter and the maids work feverishly to write the book.
Skeeter and Stuart are an official couple, and she and her family are invited to dinner at the state senator's house. Skeeter presses him for the details of his break up with Patricia, but Stuart does not like to talk about it. The family dinner does not go well. Stuart's father gets drunk and brings up Patricia. Stuart is forced to admit that Patricia slept with another man, a civil rights activist. The men discuss a recent lynching, and Skeeter's father surprises her by saying he'd protect the 25 Negroes working on his property at all cost. Finally, Skeeter asks Stuart if he is still in love with his ex-girlfriend, he refuses to answer, and says he needs some space to think about it all.
At the League meeting everyone already knows that Stuart broke up with Skeeter. Hilly is furious that Skeeter still will not print her bathroom initiative and threatens to have Skeeter thrown out of the League for carrying integrationist materials.
Throughout these chapters Skeeter's mother's health continues to fail.
As Skeeter hears more of the maids' stories she feels as if she is hearing her history for the first time. She thinks of Constantine and how she never even got to thank her or say good-bye. The maids tell stories of raising white children who later turn on them, of white men who assault them, and white women who blame them. What surprises Skeeter the most is how close the loving and the hating are in all the relationships. Black maids are an integral part of the family's operation. They are needed and yet sometimes resented for that same need. Some maids grow to love the families they serve, too, and are just as emotionally hurt when they are rejected as a family member would be.
Skeeter begins to worry for her own safety, too, and how she might be punished by her own kind for being involved with the maids. She says that being white is no longer enough protection. The true dangers of the secret book become evident to all who are involved, but it seems only to encourage the project and make them work harder toward its completion. The maids' voices are being heard for the first time, and stopping the project would silence that voice. There is danger because there is truth, and these women become devoted to having these stories told. Truth can bring about revelation and perhaps change, which would threaten the ways of the Old South.