Tracy Chevalier

Girl With a Pearl Earring

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  • Features an extended summary and 6 sections of expert analysis
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Girl With a Pearl Earring Important Quotes

1. “As the woman turned to look at the man, a fold of her mantle caught the handle of the knife I had been using, knocking it off the table so that it spun across the floor. I stepped over and picked up the knife, polishing the blade on my apron before placing it back on the table. The knife brushed against the vegetables. I set a piece of carrot back in its place” (Part 1, p. 4).

The woman and man in this passage are Catharina and Johannes Vermeer. Catharina is wearing the garment that figures prominently in many of Vermeer’s paintings and that will become an object of envy for Griet, as it represents for her Catharina’s privileged status as a middle-class woman and Vermeer’s wife. Significantly, it is this mantle that catches the knife, here representative of power, and sends it spinning across the floor. The power that Griet has when safe at home in her mother’s kitchen, to feel some measure of control over her life is about to be upset, like the knife itself. That Griet picks up the knife (instead of Catharina, who sent it spinning in the first place), also illustrates their social status relative to one another and mirrors the final scene of Part 3, when Griet refuses to pick up another knife Catharina sends spinning across the floor.

2. “I always laid vegetables out in a circle, each with its own section like a slice of pie. There were five slices: red cabbage, onions, leeks, carrots, and turnips. I had used knife edge to shape each slice, and placed a carrot disc in the center” (Part 1, p. 5).

This passage is important as it is Griet’s attention to order and color that first attracts Vermeer’s eye. References to this seminal moment are made throughout the book.

3. “It was a simple picture of two small figures, a boy and an older girl. They were not playing as children usually did in tiles. They were simply walking along, and were like Frans and me whenever we walked together—clearly our father had thought of…

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