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Blake Bergen by shuifanglj


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Blake Bergen

Set 1, English 2H

Ms. Perecko

27 February 2007

                                    The Lovers of Griet

       Griet experiences two different kinds of love in Tracy Chevalier‟s Girl with a

Pearl Earring. In one case, Griet loves Vermeer, her master. Griet‟s father was a tile

painter until a horrific incident involving an exploding kiln left him blind and out of

work. Because of this, Griet‟s family was no longer able to make a living and they were

forced to eat nothing but vegetables, leaving them quite eager for meat. To make more

money, Griet‟s parents were left with no choice but to send their 16-year-old daughter to

a house on the Oude Langendijck to be a maid. Griet worked for the household of Maria

Thins, although her master and mistress were Johannes Vermeer, a famous dutch painter

whose work was strongly admired by Griet, and his wife and the daughter of Mary Thins,

Catharina Vermeer. Griet quickly grew to appreciate Vermeer even more than she did

before, due in part to his mysteriousness and his fine ability to paint as well. This

appreciation blossomed to a higher level, love. Although Griet knew that she could never

be with Johannes Vermeer, seeing as he was a married Catholic, and could never obtain a

divorce even if he wanted to, so she tried not to think of him as a possibility. Vermeer

did begin to “fall in love” with Griet at the end of the story, but van Leeuwenhoek

warned, “competition make men possessive,” implying that Vermeer‟s seeming attraction

towards Griet is only due to the fact that van Ruijven wants her (Chevalier 186).
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        While Griet worked for the Vermeers, she went to a different butcher than she

normally did while with her family. This new butcher was named Pieter, and he had a

son who Griet called, “Pieter the son,” mainly because his name is shared between

himself and his father. Pieter fell in love with Griet when he first laid eyes upon her,

however Griet was less impulsive. After Griet‟s mother found out about the fact that

Pieter was fond of her daughter, she pushed Griet to pursue this practical relationship.

Knowing that her family desired meat and that the family of a butcher was not to go

without such a necessity, Griet did what she thought was right, and went after Pieter.

Griet grew to love Pieter and went on to marry him bearing him two sons and becoming

his partner in his butcher stall. In both of these relationships, Griet‟s hair played a large


        The time spent between Griet and Vermeer mostly took place in Vermeer‟s

studio, in private. This was something that Griet had over Catharina, because Catharina

was banned from the studio because she is a klutz and is very jittery. In the studio, Griet

helped Vermeer with his paintings, as well as her cleaning duties. Even though Griet was

to leave everything the way it was left in the studio, she made one change. For one of

Vermeer‟s paintings, she moved a blue tablecloth, because she thought that it would

make the painting better. She also assisted her master in the making of paints by grinding

the things needed to make certain colors. By doing these things, Griet and Vermeer were

able to create something together, the paintings that she helped him with, were in a way,

the equivalent to having children together, something they could clearly not do. These

things made Catharina quite jealous, an emotion shared, for slightly different reasons, by

Vermeer and van Ruijven over Griet as well. Both of these feelings of jealousy were
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brought upon by the possessive nature of humans and Griet, the maid that caused so

much trouble in the house of the Vermeers.

       Vermeer becomes exceedingly possessive over Griet as van Ruijven expresses

more fondness toward the wide-eyed maid. As this happens, Vermeer abuses more and

more of his power. Van Ruijven pays Vermeer to paint a portrait of Griet, the girl with

the pearl earring. However, Vermeer first paints Griet in just a yellow turban, blue head-

cloth, and a yellow mantle; he later discovers that the painting is missing something,

which happens to be the set of pearl earrings owned by Catharina. Griet realized what

was missing before her master, and strongly disagreed with doing it. Vermeer admits that

“this will satisfy van Ruijven, but not me” once more showing that he must take control

of her (190). Not only must she pierce her ears, but she had to wear her mistresses pearls,

which are not meant for a maid. The act of piercing her ears, represents Vermeer

“leaving his mark” on Griet, the only “mark” he can leave, without going against his

marital vows. Furthermore, he wanted her to pierce both of her ears, even though one ear

was not to be seen in the masterpiece (an example of his abuse of power).

       Even though Griet is rather poor, she has one prized possession, but this

possession was more of an attribute of her physical self. She viewed her hair as

something that she could keep to herself, something so beautiful, something so wild,

should be kept wrapped up and to herself. When Vermeer demands that Griet wear lady

like colors, like yellow and blue, Griet goes to her room to change her cap to the turban in

the painting. When Griet does this, Vermeer unexpectedly enters her room for the first

time, and steals a long glance of her untamed and stunning “Pantene” hair, making him

the first to see her hair, the one thing she kept for herself. “My hair fell in waves over my
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shoulders, brown like fields in autumn. No one ever saw it but me” (196). To Griet, this

was representative of losing her virginity. She felt that she could do anything, and go

against her morals, for she had nothing left to hide. Because of this, she searched out

Pieter the son and led him to an alleyway, letting him have his way with her.

       “His eyes came to rest on me like a butterfly on a flower and I could not keep

from blushing. […] As I turned to go I caught the glance that passed between father and

son. Even then I knew somehow what it meant, and what it would mean for me” (40).

That was Griet‟s first encounter with Pieter the son, and she managed to capture his

attention, in a way that even she knew would lead to the marriage between herself and the

butcher‟s son. After this meeting, Pieter tried to steal Griet‟s heart, and he did, with the

idea of providing meat to her deprived family in mind, Griet manipulated her feelings to

fall in love with Pieter. It was almost like an arranged marriage, especially because

Griet‟s mother pushed her into marriage with Pieter. These things changed the feelings

towards Pieter that she might have had, and she began to like him. “I began to look

forward to my daily errand even more […]” (67).

       Pieter took a keen interest in Griet, showing it by telling her about the plague and

going to her church to see her and meet her family. “‟Where does your family live?‟

[…] „Off the Rietveld Canal, not far from the Koe Gate. Why do you ask?‟ […] “There

have been reports of the plague in that quarter.‟ […] Afterwards I realized he must have

been asking others about me. If he hadn‟t already known wehre my family lived, he

would never have known to tell me about the plague” (62). This shows that Pieter was

clearly worried about Griet and her family and thought of her immediately. “One Sunday

Pieter the son came to services at our church. […] He was standing off to one side,
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watching me” (117). “‟Why are you here?‟ […] „I came to see you, and to meet your

parents” (118).

       As Pieter and Griet are in the alleyway, Pieter mentions something about how

Griet constantly keeps her hair covered. She narrates, “I had hesitated because I did not

want to like but did not want him to know. My hair was long and could not be tamed.

When it was uncovered it seemed to belong to another Griet—a Griet who would stand in

an alley alone with a man, who was not so calm and quiet and clean. A Griet like the

women who dared to bare their heads. That was why I kept my hair completely hidden—

so that there would be no trace of that Griet” (122). Later on in the story, after Vermeer

sees Griet‟s hair, Griet goes to Pieter and has sex with him, feeling more pleasure in

knowing that her hair had been seen, rather than in the sex.

       Griet has very unusual relationships in Tracy Chevalier‟s Girl with a Pearl

Earring. One blossomed from respect and appreciation for the art of painting, while the

other was compelled and fueled by the thought of providing for the family of a maid, who

could leave the hardships of cleaning behind, and work with a husband, in a market.

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