Summary and Analysis
Skeeter's mother, Charlotte, is disappointed that Skeeter is not yet married, and she has many plans for correcting the situation. She tries to fix Skeeter's hair, her manners, her clothes, and her outlook on life. Skeeter cannot reveal to her mother that her real dream is to become a writer, but she agrees to look for a job to improve her man-catching chances.
Flashbacks recall the bond between Skeeter and Constantine and reveal the void left in Skeeter because of Constantine's disappearance. Skeeter is told by her mother that Constantine left willingly to live with her family in Chicago.
Before Skeeter left college she applied for an editorial position in New York City with Harper & Row, Publishers, but she never heard from then until now. Elaine Stein, Senior Editor, writes to Skeeter to reject her resume but advises her to find a job writing for her local newspaper. Stein also writes that she is willing to look over Skeeter's publishing ideas.
Skeeter receives a job offer at the Jackson Journal writing the Miss Myrna column, a housekeeping advice column for which she is unqualified. Skeeter asks Aibileen to help her with the answers to domestic questions and Aibileen reluctantly agrees. While they are working on the column, Aibileen reveals that Constantine was actually fired and gave birth to a light-skinned baby.
Societal expectations for white women is a theme in each of Skeeter's chapters. She is expected to be married and to be having babies by the time she is 22 years old. Skeeter's mother considers it her duty to help her daughter, but her attempts are critical and Skeeter is a constant disappointment. Mrs. Phelan says that four years of college is more than enough for a woman. When Skeeter searches the newspaper for a job, she discovers that men are paid more for the same work. The path for white women seems just as narrowly defined as the path for black maids.
Skeeter's relationship with Constantine parallels Aibileen's attachment to Mae Mobley: The bonds between black maid and white child run deep and usually lead to heartbreak for both. The white child often forms a devotion to the maid, which is reciprocated, but the child will eventually grow up to be a future employer with the power. As children they must obey their maids, but when the child matures, the maids become the ones who must obey. Also, even though the bond is strong between maid and child, the parents can sever the bond without explanation. It is an impossible relationship, yet the love between maid and child is a constant theme in Southern culture.
The civil rights movement is also introduced in these chapters when Skeeter's mother discovers Skeeter watching the national news with Pascagoula looking on. Marches and protests are being organized across the country which will eventually impact Jackson, too. Skeeter's mother chastises her daughter for "encouraging" the help, but it is clear that the world is changing and the way race relations have been in the South will not be tolerated in the future.