Girl with a Pearl Earring

In the novel ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ we are exposed to various aspects of love, all carried through by the metaphor created part-way through the novel. Griet’s moment of realization as objects not always being just one colour, but instead composed of many layers and shades becomes an extended metaphor throughout the novel to show that perception does not necessarily mean truth. Here Chevalier may be suggesting that, to really ‘see everything’, you must remove all prejudice and really engage with what you are viewing in an open minded way. People view the world in a way that is most easy to them, and how they want to see it. This is not always appropriate, when looking closer at something, in this case clouds, we have to ignore our natural instincts to view it selfishly and instead open up to the idea that there may be more than the obvious. From this we can really begin to appreciate the beauty of an object,person, situation or whatever we may be viewing.

Many characters in the story have interactions with Griet; one of them being Pieter. Their love appears to us as true and all-encompassing. Nonetheless there is great significance behind Griet taking her cap off for Jan and not for Pieter, another important male in her life, as it is almost as if she is revealing herself fully. She hides away behind the cloth in complete secrecy not showing herself to anyone. Once she has removed her cap and revealed her hair and face she is vulnerable and weak. It is also obvious that in Vermeer’s studio Griet feels most at home, she starts to open herself up more to him. In such a situation she must feel completely safe and comfortable as she is revealed as vulnerable and exposed. By questioning him and taking a role in conversation, on top of her removing her cap, she is completely changing the way we see her. She is no longer a quiet, confusing character we know little about. The character of Jan is almost a catalyst for the change in Griet’s character. Chevalier is using Jan to channel Griet’s confidence and through him bring her out of her shell.

In the extract where Griet is laying the table Catharina asks Jan to tie her necklace, he is so encapsulated by Griet’s beauty and elegance he has to be told twice. On return he can’t help but look back over at Griet as if he hasn’t the choice. Catharina wears green earrings in this context and the subtle links to the connotations of jealousy mirror her nervousness and jealousy towards Griet. This situation shows how not only Griet is changing when placed in a new, exciting situation. Jan is also affected by the strangeness and irregularities in his normal life and the infiltration of Griet and his feelings towards her. Griet is passively forcing him to do things he wouldn’t normally do, as he is doing to her. By showing this subtly in the novel we as a reader begin to understand the developing relationship and connection the two characters encompass.

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