Chevalier, Tracy. Girl with the pearl earring. New York: 2000. First edition 1999.
This book is about a maid whose name is Griet. She works for the family Vermeer. After her sister Agnes dies because of an epidemic of plague, everything becomes dull to her. From that moment Pieter’s interest in Griet increased. Griet’s parents want Griet to marry Pieter the son, but Griet is more in love with her master Johannes Vermeer. After the moment that Van Ruijven asks to Johannes to paint a painting of Griet, Griet’s secret assisting becomes very difficult. Cornelia Catherina’s favorite child, tries to frame Griet and Johannes and tell her mother about the errands and the chores Griet has to do for her master. This is the reason why Catherina finds out that Johannes had been painting Griet. Griet has to leave her job and starts to work for the butcher. She marries Pieter. A few years later when Johannes dies, Catherina gives her pearl earrings that Johannes used to complete the painting of Griet.
Griet is the main character of the book. The whole book is about her life. At the start of the story Griet lives home at her parents. Soon she lives at the house of the family Vermeer. Together with Tanneke she is a maid. Tanneke helps Griet with some stuff and errands but they don’t become friends. Tanneke is older than Griet and want to be the only maid in the house. She is jealous and irritated because Griet gets more attention than she does. Tanneke managed to check her irritation for several days, though soon she began again to scold and sulk, leaving it to me to placate her. Chapter 1664, page 79. Although Tanneke is very jealous, she is not evil to Griet like Cornelia. But it worked –Tanneke said nothing about my attic work to Catharina or the girls, or to me. Chapter 1665, page 121.When Tanneke knows anything about Griet, she gets very difficult opposite Griet. There are a few moments like this, for instance when Tanneke knows about Griet’s attic work.
Besides the bad relationship between Griet and Tanneke, Griet is also not loved by Catherina. Just like Tanneke she is irritated by the fact that she gets less attention by her husband than Griet gets. She turned to her husband. ‘Why,’ she asked, ‘have you never painted me?’ Chapter 1666, page 227.
Catherina and Johannes have a bad relationship. Catharina smiled at her husband. Invitations to his studio were rare. Chapter 1665, page 113 . Just like Johannes is not in love with his family he is not in love with Griet. The only thing he loves is his work. For Griet this is very difficult to see. She hopes that if he paint her, he will be in love with her. But this does not happen, Johannes loves the painting more that he loves Griet. This is why he did not stand up for Griet when Catherina finds out that Johannes used her pearl earrings for the painting. She was not going to admit to helping me get the earrings. Nor would he, I knew. Chapter 1666, page 226.
At the start of the first chapter Pieter falls in love with Griet. He tries to attract Griet but Griet is not attracted by Pieter because she is in love with her master. When I should be listening to Pieter I found myself thinking about my master. Chapter 1665, page 127. Although Griet was not attracted to Pieter, Pieter and Griet got a relationship. After several Sundays my parents became used to him. Chapter 1665, page 127. Griet’s parents needed the food of the butcher so the choice was made for Griet.
Because of a rumor that Griet’s master was going to paint Griet, Pieter the son was furious. (The last maid that was painted by Johannes Vermeer had slept with him.) Together with Maria Thins (the mother of Catharina) Griet made a plan to stop the gossip. Griet explained to Pieter that she would not be painted by Johannes. Although the relationship between Pieter and Griet became stronger, Griet still didn’t feel anything for Pieter. ‘I’ll make you happy, Griet,’ he said. ‘I will.’Chapter 1666, page 186.
Griet has made progress during her time as a maid. At the start of the story Griet was a little bit a fool. She did not know how everything worked in the house. She always flaps out what she thinks. I pressed my lips together. ‘Don’t look at me like that, Griet,’ my mother said. ‘We have to, now your father has lost his trade.’ Chapter 1664, page 6. At the end of the story she still flaps out what she thinks but now she flaps not everything out. That is why the other characters sometimes do not know what she is thinking. I might say, ‘What about the way he looked at me for so many hours while he painted this painting?’ I might say, ‘What about your mother and your husband, who have gone behind your back and deceived you?’ Or I might simply say, ‘Your husband touched me, here, in this room.’ They did not know what I might say. Chapter 1666, page 227.
Time and Structure
This story is about the painting the girl with the pearl earring. This painting is painted during the Middle Ages. So the story is set during this time. The book is split in four chapters. Every chapter begins with a page with the date of the year. The story took place between 1664 and 1676. The first three chapters consist the three first years of Griet working as a maid at the family Vermeer. The fourth chapter consist the year when Johannes Vermeer dies. Between the third and the fourth chapter there is a time warp. The years after Griet stopped working for the family Vermeer, where not quite as interesting as the year what is written in the fourth chapter. This is why the writer chose not to describe these years.
In the first chapter Griet starts to work for the family Vermeer. Rumor has it that the family needs a maid. Because Griet’s family needs the money, Griet has to work as maid for the family Vermeer.
After a while Griet’s sister Agnes dies because of an epidemic of plague. Pieter the butcher’s son gets interested in Griet because Griet has to buy meat for the family. Later in that year Catherina is pregnant and throws a party.
In the second chapter Griet begun to assist her Master. After Tanneke finds out that Griet is assisting her master Tanneke becomes very difficult with Griet. Soon also Cornelia finds out that Griet is assisting her father. After a while Griet’s parents finds out that Pieter is in love with Griet.
In the third chapter Griet starts to assist her Master for her own painting. Because the painting is not ready Griet has to wear Catherina’s earrings to give the painting more light. Right after Pieter the son asks Griet to marry him Catherina finds out that Johannes painted Griet and used her earrings. Griet has to leave her job.
In the fourth chapter Griet works for the butcher. Pieter the son and Griet marries and Griet gets a son. Because Johannes dies Griet has to go to the family Vermeer to pick up the pearl earrings. Johannes had reserved these earrings for Griet. Because Griet could not wear these earrings because of her poorness she sales the earrings and keeps the money.
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