Tracy Chevalier

Girl With a Pearl Earring

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Girl With a Pearl Earring Part Four: 1676 Summary & Analysis

Part Four Summary: 1676

Griet is working at the butcher stall when Tanneke, whom she has not seen forten years, walks up.Surprised as she is to see her, Griet carefully puts down her knife, wipes her bloody hands on her apron, and greets Tanneke, who abruptly tells her that she is being summoned to see “the mistress.” The summons given, Tanneke refuses to buy anything, and Griet reflects on how the Vermeer household had stopped purchasing meat from the Pieters so suddenly after Griet married Pieter that they still owed them fifteen guilders.  Pieter calls the fifteen guilders “the price paid” for Griet and jokes that he now knows “what a maid is worth” (220). Griet’s younger son, Frans, is there with her, and her mother and older son Jan arrive before Tanneke reminds her to come that afternoon and leaves. We learn that the Vermeers now have eleven children and that Catharina lost the baby she was carrying at the time of the confrontation over Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Griet asks her mother to watch the children that afternoon and refuses to answer her mother’s question about where she is going. Pieter, she notes, does not ask questions, deciding instead to trust his wife, just as he did ten years before, when she came to him on their wedding night with holes in her ears.In the context of this summons, we learn that Vermeer has died—two months previously—and that once Griet had her own children, she stopped hoping to see him or wondering about him or his family.

When she arrives at the Vermeer house, there are children outside on the bench just as there were ten years before, and Franciscus, the eldest, who was a baby when Griet left, says he recognizes her as “the lady in the painting.” Griet learns that the painting hangs in van Ruijven’s daughter’s house, van Ruijven himself having died a year earlier, but that it had been hung in the Vermeer home at Vermeer’s request, only being returned after his death. Maria Thins tells her that Catharina is the one who asked…

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