The controversy exists as to where the novel “Girl with a Pearl Earring” authored by Tracy Chevalier should be kept as a part of young adult’s book club.
The main focus of the debate is whether the young adults should concentrate on reading classics or should be exposed to contemporary writing depicting the innate complexity of human emotions and behaviour. Chevalier an American British came into limelight with this particular novel which was later filmed starring two popular artists namely Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson.
The film poster of the famous book starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson (2003)
Griet, a sixteen year old girl belonging from a poor family is the central character of this novel. She was appointed as a maid in the house of a painter named Johannes Vermeer to take care of the daily chores especially cleaning the studio of the painter. The existence of other character like Catharina, the painter’s wife, Pieter, the butcher and Van Ruijven, the patron of Vermeer adds an extra shade to the enigmatic drama in Griet’s life. The young lass took the job to support her family which has been destitute by their fate. The way in which a job can change her whole life along with affecting the lives of others has been beautifully depicted through this novel. This novel should be kept for the young adult’s reading as it magnificently portrays the character of a human being and the way in which it changes with time. The situation through which an ordinary girl passes during her growing ages has been depicted by the existence of characters like Van Ruijven and Pieter.
Ultimately the usual destiny of any ordinary girl after she becomes adult is to get married to a man and raise his family has been painstakingly shown by the relationship of Pieter and Griet.
This famous novel can be divided into four basic sections whereby the author portrays her views through an indispensable narration. The first section narrates about the ways in which the central character Griet, a maid gets accepted in the family and develops a one to one relation with the family members. The novel moves in a fast pace and enters the second and third phase whereby Griet started developing an infatuation for her master. The focus in the third phase is on the intensified relation between Griet and her master and the controversy related with this extra-marital affair. The final phase comes with an unexpected turn which comes with a gap of ten long years in the story.
It has been narrated that the adolescence girl Griet is now a matured adult who has moved on from her past infatuation and entered into a new phase of life where she is settled with her beloved husband.
Ideologies and Aesthetic Appeal:
Chevalier’s novel has always been an epitome of interaction of different ideologies existing within mankind. Her second novel, ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ sees no dearth in the same.
The cover page of the original book by Tracy Chevalier
Author has tried to depict the status of women during that era and her writings always demystified the rough life that any ordinary women have to go through in her life. At the initial level it might seem that Vermeer, the painter shifted from his ideologies of being a family man and got engaged into relation with the young maid. On clear evaluation it can be understood that Vermeer’s love was for his work and he shared more of spiritual relationship with Griet. As a matter of fact, it is Vermeer who saved the girl from the lusty eyes of his patron. His love never showed a tinge of carnal desire rather he took the girl as a theme of his passion that is painting. On other hand, the nature of hatred showed by Catharine was obvious as she was possessive about her husband and feared losing him. The whole story addresses to the contemporary women who has been constantly facing both emotional and sexual betrayal from their partners . Griet was initially portrayed like a romantic heroine but as the story rolls on it has been seen that she realised that she cannot have any future with the painter. It was against the ideology of a person to get involved into extra-marital affair. Tracy Chevalier aesthetically showed Griet’s character where she ends up marrying the person who was in love with her. In that marriage she did not have to digress from any conventional ideology. The aesthetic appeal strengthens when Griet pawns the earrings she received from Catherine and pays the debt of his master.
Through this action it has been shown that Griet moved away from her feelings and does not wishes to keep any memoirs of her past and at the same time is obliged to her master Vermeer.
The young adult readers who inn contemporary times are busier over the virtual world lacks in the knowledge of different sides of love. Most of them face relation issues either due to lack of trust or due to prioritising lust over love. This novel can be helpful in giving them an insight about the various stages of life and change their outlook about love and life. In short, author Tracy Chevalier has been successful in scrupulously portraying the complexity in human emotions of infatuation, faith, love, lust and betrayal in this masterpiece through the life of this ordinary girl Griet and very few characters that revolved around her life to change her from an immature adolescence to a matured lady. Hence, it can be debated that this novel should be placed as a top level reading material in young adult’s book club.
The painting by Johannes Vermeer
Currie, G., Kieran, M., Meskin, A. and Robson, J. eds., 2014. Aesthetics and the Sciences of Mind. Oxford University Press, USA.
Fernandez, M. (2016). The Man Who Knows the 'Girl With a Pearl Earring' Most Intimately. [online] The Epoch Times. Available at: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1965150-the-man-who-knows-the-girl-with-a-pearl-earring-most-intimately/ [Accessed 15 May 2017].
Maharani, D.I., 2015. Woman’s Choice In Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With a Pearl Earring (Doctoral dissertation, Universitas Jember).
Shimamura, A.P., 2016. Seeing, Knowing, and Understanding: Intersecting Paths Between Art and Science. The American Journal of Psychology, 129(2), pp.200-203.