by Kathryn Stockett
Like her best friend Hilly, Elizabeth falls squarely into the villain category, though we admit we find her a little more sympathetic than Hilly. Not that this excuses her, but she seems particularly vulnerable to Hilly's whims because of her borderline economic status. Although her mother, Miss Fredericks, is rich, Elizabeth and her husband Raleigh seem to make less money than most of their friends do. Beneath her puppy-dog loyalty to Hilly, Elizabeth must know how easy it would be for Hilly to make her life miserable too.
Elizabeth doesn't seem to realize anything consciously, though. She comes off as vapid, numb, and petty. She's a follower with few ideas of her own. Far worse, she neglects her daughter Mae Mobley, and physically and verbally abuses her. As Aibileen, who works for Elizabeth, wryly observes, "You see her in the Jitney 14 grocery, you never think she go leave her baby crying in her crib like that. But the help always know" (1.25).
Because of her social status, Elizabeth can't be known as an abusive parent. Her status allows her to abuse and neglect her daughter with impunity, and prevents her from getting help for her problems. There are hints that Elizabeth is raising her daughter the way her mother raised her, with violence and disgust. But since we only see Elizabeth through Aibileen and Skeeter's eyes, we don't really know what's beneath her surface.
On a more positive note, we do see a glimmer of change in Elizabeth at the end of the novel. When Hilly punishes Aibileen by framing her for stealing her silver, Elizabeth fires Aibileen, but also apologizes and refuses to press charges against Aibileen. This doesn't sound like much, but for Elizabeth it's a big step. She's actually taken a tiny stand against Hilly and is opening her eyes, ever so slightly, to the truth of things.