Girl with a Pearl Earring Girl with a Pearl Earring question


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Cycle of Power Theory
Jennae Jennae Sep 12, 2012 11:13PM
So I have been studying this book for my literature class and constantly the question of power has been raised. Is wealth the direct link to power? Does Griet have power despite her role as a maid?

It got me thinking. In the Vermeer house there is a constant battle for power, yet no one ever has direct or complete power over another person. Before Griet entered the house the structure of power seemed pretty linear. So how did she change it? And what was the factor that created this impact.

Like most things in this book, it revolves around the intimate and unique relationship she has with Johannes.

I have created a theory that the power in the Vermeer house runs in a continuous cycle, each position of power dependent on another.

*Imagine the following in a circular type diagram*
So we start with what I call-

1. GRIET's EMPLOYMENT POWER: The power as to whether Griet has a job and steady income for her struggling family. (This is a "wealthy power", held by the Vermeer family)

which links to-

2. GRIET's JOB TO CLEAN VERMEER's STUDIO POWER: Access to the place where Vermeer works and that is intimate and important to him. A place that Catherina is even limited from. This power leads to Vermeer and Griet's relationship, her becoming his "assistant" and him ultimately painting her. (This is a power Griet possesses, or an "non-wealthy" power.)

which links to-

3. VERMEER's PAINTINGS POWER: How Vermeer draws inspiration for his paintings and more importantly the rate at which he works on and completes his paintings. (A power Griet eventually has great impact on, "non-wealthy" power.)

which links to-

4. VERMEER FAMILY INCOME: The money that comes from the commissions on Vermeer's paintings. Dictating their wealth. ("wealthy" power, held by the Vermeer family)

which links to power #1 and thus repeats.

What do you think? Do you agree with this theory or disagree? Why? Looking forward to reading your opinions.



I love this book too. For me it was never about about 'power' but the limiting socialand moral constraints of the period for all. It's narrative places them between religious fault lines of one society and to the common values once in the other's world. Then there's the same individual human fears in any family once a new person is within their midst.
There's a more of a study of a position of sensuality withing the social values of the day. The showing and hiding of hair hair is very telling to the values of the day. As it was 'taboo' for the virtious woman to show her hair outside her own immediate family. The portrait flirts between will she, will he? the flowing hair does it disrupt the the balance of the house? sitter and artist? girl or woman? catholic or protestant? social class? all hang by a hair's breath. There's a lot of simililarities to other parts of the world today to how both male and females are traped withing the social constraints. And yes, wealth always allows some material freedom and indiviual choice, but here too it adhere's to social morals.


Jennae, You have described your thoughts so beautifully.
This is one of my favourite books and reading above made me like the book even more. Splendid!

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Jennae Thank you Reshma! It really is a great book!
Sep 20, 2012 08:15PM · flag

Jennae, your depiction of the power shift in the Vermeer household is excellently described. As to a "non-wealthy" power, it seems that Griet's power is the only one available to poor women -- sexual power, which is, unfortunately, in most cases, transitory. Women have always and are still using their sexual power to advance their social standing. It has been a long time since I read this book, but, as I recall, Griet is basically unaware of her sexual power, does not know how to use it, and does not want to use it. Some women can use their sexual power to get what they want and hold on to it (case in point: Evita), but for most young women it is a disaster. I can't remember now if money wins out and Catherina get rid of Griet, or whether Griet left of her own accord, but whatever power Griet had was shortlived and ironically, ended up giving the Vermeers more power - her inspiration leading to better painting by Vermeer leading to financial success. And Griet marries the butcher.

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Jennae Oh wow, that is so cool. I think I will start doing that also. I think it may really help solve some of plot and character relationships in certain st ...more
Sep 13, 2012 10:21PM · flag

You have rightly discovered that power in the Vermeer house runs in a continuous cycle. I liked reading this book.My niece,while traveling to Europe brought it for me from the museum store where the original painting was exhibited.


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