Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Who was your favorite character? Why?
What do you think motivated Hilly? On the one hand she is terribly cruel to Aibileen and her own help, as well as to Skeeter once she realizes that she cant control her. Yet shes a wonderful mother. Do you think that one can be a good mother but, at the same time, a deeply flawed person?
Like Hilly, Skeeters mother is a prime example of someone deeply flawed yet somewhat sympathetic. She seems to care for Skeeter and she also seems to have very real feelings for Constantine. Yet the ultimatum she gives to Constantine is untenable; and most of her interaction with Skeeter is critical. Do you think Skeeters mother is a sympathetic or unsympathetic character? Why?
How much of a persons character would you say is shaped by the times in which they live?
Did it bother you that Skeeter is willing to overlook so many of Stuarts faults so that she can get married, and that its not until he literally gets up and walks away that the engagement falls apart?
Do you believe that Minny was justified in her distrust of white people?
Do you think that had Aibileen stayed working for Miss Elizabeth, that Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother? Do you think racism is inherent, or taught?
From the perspective of a twenty-first century reader, the hairshellac system that Skeeter undergoes seems ludicrous. Yet women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of beauty changes with the times. Looking back on your past, whats the most ridiculous beauty regimen you ever underwent?
The author manages to paint Aibileen with a quiet grace and an aura of wisdom about her. How do you think she does this?
Do you think there are still vestiges of racism in relationships where people of color work for people who are white?
What did you think about Minnys pie for Miss Hilly? Would you have gone as far as Minny did for revenge?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Berkley Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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