Griet Is Used and Sometimes Even Abused by Many of the Characters in the Novel, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”. Do You Agree?

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In the novel “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Tracy Chevalier, the limitation of women of 17th century Holland was portrayed by the female protagonist Griet and how she is manipulated as a maid by all adults in her life, which means they place Griet in difficult situations and take advantages of her innocence, her feelings and love with their power and influences on her life to benefit themselves. She is put in the lowliest position which enables some other adults to abuse her, that is, they misuse their position of authorities as well as social rank, leaving her vulnerable and open to accusations as well as sexual assault. However, she managed to maintain her strong characters and show the effort to make positive choices about the future by leaving the Vermeer house and marrying Pieter. From the beginning of the novel, exploitation can be clearly seen as the significant and recurring theme. It is so miserable that Griet is utilized by her own parents through the way they make her work for Vermeer household without forewarning and negotiation to earn the whole family living because they “have no choice”, even though they declare that they “are not ruled by riches”. What is more, they also ‘encourage’ Griet’s relationship with Pieter the butcher’s son, but for no reason other than “the content to take the gifts of meat and have her stand in an alley with him”, to keep a solid income. “I also knew what a hardship it would be to them to have him come….despite my wages and what my mother made, they could barely feed themselves”, “I looked in her eyes and saw there the hunger for meat that a butcher’s son could provide”. It is digested that her parents “set aside their pride” and see Pieter proposal as “a way of filling their own stomach in the future. A butcher’s wife and her parents would always eat well”. They do not care about her emotions, they do not ask if she likes him, agree to marry him or not. Being aware of his importance, Pieter imposes upon Griet as well - “not anyone waits until they are older, and your family needs me”. He “expects” lots of things from her, for instance what she will return him when he gives the information about her family during the plague or trying to see her hair. Griet has very little control of her life as others always make plans for her. In addition, other characters go even further - especially those in the Vermeer household- turning to abuse Griet. An outstanding example is Van Ruijven who is not dominant over just Griet, but over the entire Vermeer house. Coming from a very high class with power, wealth and high status – contrasting to Griet – he uses the inequality in their position to manipulate Griet into a position where he can satisfy his lust, viewing her as “a pretty possession” that he “will have anyway”. However, Van Ruijven is not the only person who capitalizes on her due to with their authority. Even Vermeer, the master which Griet always admires and has feelings for, use her as well. Despite of the fact that Griet risks her job, sacrifices her reputation and safety to help Vermeer with his artworks, he neither shows thankfulness nor considers the consequences for Griet, he betrays her. This relationship is revealed through their conversation, for instance: “Your cap. Take it off” “Yet you don’t want to be painted as maid with your mop and your cap” or “But, sir, I said, my ear is not pierced.” “Well, then, you will need to take care of that”. He makes use of Griet’s artistic talent and sensibilities to enhance his paintings’ quality; it the art he cares about, not the person. Refusing to take responsibility, when Catharina finds out about his secret painting of Griet, Vermeer doesn’t defend her when he could have; yet, he is not the only one – Maria Thins, too, betrays Griet with her thoughtless actions: “She was not going to admit to helping me get the earrings. Nor would he, I knew. I did not know what to say. So I did not say anything.” Described as a very wise woman...
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