It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. –Robert F. Kennedy
Three main characters narrate the novel in alternating chapter sets. The first narrator is Aibileen Clark (52), a black woman who is one of “the help,” the black women who work as domestics for the white families of Jackson. These women provide their white employers with the highest standards of cleaning, cooking, laundering and, most importantly, child care. Aibileen and her best friend (and the second narrator) Minny Jackson (36) work six days a week from 8 am to 4 pm for the grand sum of $43.00 a week. They earn only 37% of the median household income which, in 1962, was $6,000.
The third narrator is Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (23), a recent graduate of “Ole Miss” (University of Mississippi). Skeeter is single, without matrimonial prospects, and still lives at home with her parents Charlotte and Carlton on the family’s cotton plantation outside of the town of Jackson. Skeeter was loved and raised by Constantine, the Phelan’s “help.” Skeeter, while naive, is untainted by racism.
I was raised by a colored woman. I’ve seen how simple it can be and–and how complex it can be between the families and the help.
Skeeter finds the conventions of her time and her gender stifling. She keeps her dreams of becoming a writer to herself. Skeeter has, however, sent her resume to a senior editor at Harper & Row, a New York trade book publishing company, in hopes of a life beyond what is expected of her.