Summary and Analysis
Chapters 8-9 - Skeeter
Skeeter is devastated by Aibileen's rejection because she has already promised the book of maid narratives to Elaine Stein, the editor in New York. Skeeter wrote up the outline and lied that maids had already committed to the project. Stein calls it the hottest topic in publishing because of the protest marches in Birmingham and Martin Luther King, but she doubts that Skeeter can every get enough maids to tell the truth. Stein says she'll read it, though, if Skeeter can write it.
Hilly continues to pressure Skeeter into going on a blind date with her husband's cousin, Stuart Whitworth, the wealthy son of a state senator. Skeeter seems uninterested but willing to go along if it relieves some of the pressure from her friend. Her mother also has self-improvement projects planned for her daughter, including the Shinalator, a new hair treatment, which surprisingly works and gives Skeeter the tiniest bit of hope about her date. The date, however, turns out to be a disaster as Stuart becomes drunk and rude.
After her disastrous date, Aibileen calls Skeeter to say she has changed her mind. Aibileen will tell her story on the condition of anonymity.
Hilly's insistence on the blind date represents the societal pressures to conform even in one's appearance. White women should be pretty, well-kept, and stylish but not draw too much attention. Skeeter's appearance is criticized because she is tall, has unruly hair, and wears little makeup. There is pressure for her to look like the cute, blonde, sorority girls from her college days, the ones who dropped out of school to marry. Skeeter finds the reliance on outward appearance silly and impossible, but she succumbs to it and agrees to go on a blind date with someone who should be a good match because of his wealth and social status. Stuart is shocked when Skeeter speaks her mind.
Skeeter's earnest naiveté is revealed even more. She assumed that being with Aibileen would be as easy as it was with Constantine when as a child she was allowed to visit and play in the black neighborhood. Skeeter is surprised by Aibileen's reluctance to help her and begins to question how her role as a white woman creates a distance between herself and Aibileen. This questioning foreshadows a personal transformation that will occur in Skeeter as the novel progresses.
Note that Hilly's characterization is that of the nemesis of each black maid. Though she claims to be charitable through her Junior League fundraising, it is clear that Hilly is power-hungry and ambitious. She directs Elizabeth's every move and threatens retaliation against anyone who disagrees with her. She'll stop at nothing to get what she wants and to have her community remain segregated and proud.