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A Synopsis of the Movie The Help

By Chayonda Apr 30, 2013 1740 Words
Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan - Recent graduate of Ole Miss, has returned to her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi to find a job and find herself. This leaves her open to seeing her hometown’s inequitable treatment of the black domestics, primarily the female maids in the employ of her friends. Skeeter both admires and fears disappointing her mother and her friend Hilly, yet she pursues completing a manuscript called Help with primary assistance from her good friend’s maid named Aibileen. She also seeks the reason her beloved maid Constantine abruptly left her family’s employ. Aibileen Clark – A maid and nanny in Jackson, Mississippi. Aibileen is the first narator, a middle aged African American employed by Elizabeth Leefolt, Skeeter’s good friend. Here’s how the character is described in the book: . . . Aibileen smiles at me from the sink, her gold tooth shining. She’s a little plump in the middle, but it is a friendly softness. And she’s much shorter than me, because who isn’t? Her skin is dark brown and shiny against her starchy white uniform. Her eyebrows are gray even though her hair is black. (Skeeter’s observation of Aibileen’s appearance Pg 78) Aibileen is a nurturing character, and her tender affection for Mrs. Leefolt’s two year old daughter Mae Mobley is a strong beginning. Aibileen is wary of involving herself in a book on domestics in Jackson, Mississippi. However, because she serves as the “bridge”character, or the mediator between Skeeter and the other black maids needed for the project, she soon warms up to Skeeter. Aibileen’s adult son Treelore has been dead a couple of years when the book begins, and her husband left her for another woman when Treelore was just a boy. So the manuscript gives Aibileen something to do besides running the Leefolt household. Because her character is the affable guide, her participation in Skeeter’s book leaves her at the mercy of Hilly.  At the end of the novel, though she’s saddened to be dismissed from the Leefolt household (due to Hilly’s insistence), her spirit is not broken. Minny Jackson - The “sassy” maid, Minny’s mouth has gotten her into trouble one too many times. Aibileen’s friend, and a character who’s unable to keep employment because of her bossy demeanor and sharp tongue. After she loses her job with Miss Walters (Hilly’s mother), Aibileen helps her land another one with Celia Foote, who’s considered white trash and is shunned by sorority sisters and socialites like Hilly and Elizabeth. Minny is married with five children and a sixth on the way. Hilly Holbrook - Childhood friend of Skeeter and Elizabeth, the president of the Junior League in Jackson, Mississppi. Roomed with Skeeter at Ole Miss for two years, dropped out to get married. Her husband is running for the senate, and Hilly tries to push through a sanitation initiative so that all the white homeowners have a separate bathroom (outside, like an outhouse) for their black domestics. Hilly is a woman who enjoys controlling others and striking fear into those who dare oppose her. When Skeeter begins working with the maids and subsequently has “Help” published, she runs afoul of big bad Hilly. Celia Foote - Newest resident of Jackson, Mississippi, winds up hiring Minny because she cannot cook and initially tries to hide Minny’s involvement with the house cleaning and cooking  from her husband, Johnny Foote. Celia has also been unsucessful at carrying a fetus to term. She forms an unlikely bond with the sharp tongued Minny. Celia dresses provocatively, but is really a sweet person. She’s also unaware of the history between her husband and Hilly (they were together prior to Johnny meeting Celia). Elizabeth Leefolt - employer of Aibileen, best friends with Hilly and Skeeter.  Elizabeth is easily lead by Hilly. She’s also unable to be an affectionate mother to her daughter Mae Mobley, and so Aibileen becomes the child’s primary caretaker, teacher and surrogate mother. Has a son named Ross later in the novel. Aibileen calls him Li’l Man. Charlotte Phelan - Skeeter’s demanding , overbearing mother. She’s also stricken with cancer, but tells Skeeter she has “refused to die.” Skeeter has never been able to live up to her mother’s ideal of how she should look and behave. Their relationship is a tenuous one. Charlotte is concerned with Skeeter being the proper lady, while Skeeter longs to be anything but. Stuart Whitworth - Hilly sets Skeeter up on a blind date with Stuart, a senator’s son. While Stuart is handsome, charming, and appears to be smitten with Skeeter (after a disasterous blind date),  when he learns of her involvement with the maid’s stories, he immediately takes back his engagement ring. Mae Mobley Leefolt – Toddler watched daily by Aibileen and one of Elizabeth Leefolt’s two children. Because Mae’s mother is unable and unwilling to devote time and attention to her, the child turns to Aibileen, who treats her with tenderness and love. When the novel begins Mae is two years old. By the time the novel ends, Mae is five and in school, old enough at the novel’s end to beg Aibileen to stay, after Elizabeth Leefolt fires the maid at Hilly’s insistence. Leroy Jackson – Minny’s husband. He’s abusive towards her and frequently drunk. He’s fired from his job when Minny’s involvement in the book is suspected. Constantine Bates- Skeeter’s beloved childhood maid. The mystery behind Constantine’s rather abrupt departure from the Phelan household (while Skeeter was away at college)  fuels Skeeter’ s desire to solve the mystery of why she left, and how Aibileen and the other domestics feel about being employed by the residents of Jackson, Mississippi. Elaine Stein – Harper & Row Publishing house editor.“Missus Stein” as she’s referred to by Skeeter in the book, takes an interest in Skeeter because she found it “admirable that that a young lady with absolutely no work experience would apply for an editing job at a publisher as prestigious as ours.”  That excerpt is part of the letter Missus Stein sends in response to Skeeter’s resume. Elaine Stein corresponds with Skeeter over the length of the novel, advising her to write about what disturbs you, particularly if it bothers no one else. After hearing Aibileen speak of her deceased son Treelore’s idea to write about his experience working for a white employer, Skeeter decides to tweak and expand this idea under the guidance of Missus Stein. Elaine Stein is also Jewish, and Skeeter realizes I have never met a Jewish person. Yule May Crookle - Hilly’s maid, and also the only black maid without a pronounced southern accent (Lulabelle and Gretchen don’t have “southern” sounding dialect or accent either). This is probably attributed to her years of college, though the book states she never graduated. Yule May is described as tall, with a better figure than Hilly. She also steals a ring from Hilly in a mis-guided attempt to send one of her college aged twin sons to a private college (one twin’s tuition is already paid, but Yule May and her husband were short seventy-five dollars for the other twin’s tuition) This results in a supposedly smart woman stealing from Hilly of all people, a woman who’d previously turned down Yule May’s request for a loan and believes every white home in Jackson, Mississippi should have separate outhouses for their black domestics. And yes, Yule May’s last name is Crookle as in she’s in jail because she is a”crook” which is part of her last name.  Another poster pointed this out on the Amazon.com site. I believe this is the author’s mis-placed attempt yet again at being funny. Lulabelle Bates - Near white looking daughter of Constantine. Is sent away to a Chicago orphanage at the age of four, runs afoul of Charlotte Phelan when she returns to Jackson to see her mother and mingles with members of DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) during a meeting being held in the Phelan house. Carlton Phelan – Skeeter’s father, owns a cotton farm though it’s also referred to as a plantation. Is quite liberal in his views on race. Carlton Phelan (Jr?) – Skeeter’s older brother. Attends LSU for law, is described as tall and handsome with blonde wavy hair. Johnny Foote - Celia’s loyal husband. He owns a real estate office in Jackson, Mississippi. He’s also Minny’s employer. Raleigh Leefolt – Elizabeth Leefolt’s husband and Aibileen’s employer. William Holbrook – Hilly’s husband. Has political aspirations of winning Stoolie Whitworth’s state senate position. Senator “Stoolie” Whitworth – Stuart Whitworth’s father. Kindra Jackson- Minny’s youngest child, is five years old when the novel begins. Equipped with a smart mouth just like her mother, Minny laments that her bossy daughter is just like her. Pascagoula – The maid who replaces Constantine in the Phelan household. She’s Yule May’s cousin. Gretchen – Younger maid who tells off Skeeter and Aibileen, telling Skeeter that the maids really hate her, and then she calls Aibileen stupid. In defense of Skeeter, Aibileen demands Gretchen leave her house. Gretchen’s also Yule May’s cousin. Sugar Jackson – Minny’s daughter and sometime domestic for Celia Foote. Minny smacks Sugar when she overhears the girl laughing and gossiping about a drunk Celia’s appearance at The Benefit, also called the Jackson Junior League Annual Ball in the novel. Reverend Johnson – The pastor of the church Aibileen, Minny and most of the maids in The Help attend. Treelore Clark- Aibileen’s son. Only lived to be twenty-four. Died in an accident on the job. It’s his idea to write about working for a white employer. After Aibileen reveals this, Skeeter asks to use his premise for the maid’s book. Clyde Clark – Aibileen Clark’s estranged husband. Aibileen states that he ran off with another woman when Treelore was a youngster. Ross Leefolt - Elizabeth Leefolt’s second child. Also called “Li’l Man” by Aibileen. Mister Golden – works for the Jackson Journal, hires Skeeter to take over the Miss Myrna column (the Miss Myrna column provides housekeeping tips). Mister Golden allows Aibileen to take over the column after Skeeter leaves town. Naked, unknown pervert – Comes out of the woods and jacks off, then throws an object through one of Celia’s windows. When Minny goes outside to confront him, he gains the upper hand and punches her in the head. Celia saves her by beating the man unconscious with a fireplace poker. When he regains consciousness, he departs into the woods surrounding Celia house. No real purpose for his intrusion, other than it enables Minny and Celia to further bond from such a weird, traumatic experience.

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