Girl With a Pearl Earring

A novel by Tracy Chevalier

Katriina Autio

Main Characters


The main character in the novel is Griet. Griet is a girl whose childhood ended a way too soon. Her personality is obedient and quiet, while working in the house she does everything she has to without complaining. Her quiet and personality comes into the open when her master or other unknown person talks to her. However, she is not only quiet and obedient, but she also is a strong person. It can be seen when she the first time steps into the house and a daughter of the master doesn't obey her, she slaps her in the face. Also the difficult times, like when her younger sister dies of plague, she survives through tell that she is a strong person.


Pieter is an ordinary 18-year-old boy. He is happy and honest and the thing he really wants is to get married with Griet because he loves her. He knows Griet is very poor but he doesn't care and that tells he is a good person. Sometimes he is worried because somehow he senses that Griet doesn't love him on the way she should. Pieter gets what he has wanted, a happy ending but I still feel bad for him because he is not the one Griet loves.


Griet's master is married, about 40-year-old man. He is selfish, all he cares about are his paintings. He doesn't see that around him there are people who hurt. His wife is getting pregnant time after time and it seems like he doesn't have time for his family. He still is a good person, he doesn't mean to be mean, he just doesn't seem like he lives in this world. He never tells Griet that he loves her, but his wife and everyone understand that at the moment he dies, when he wants to get the painting he painted of Griet beside him.


A book Girl with a pearl earring tells about life of a girl named Griet. Griet is a girl who lives in 1660's Holland. Her family gets very poor because her father can't work after losing his sight in an accident. That situation forces her to go work as a maid in a Catholic painter's family. Griet herself is a Protestant and she is really afraid of going there because she doesn't know a lot about Catholics. However, soon she notices that Catholics are normal people just like she is and her thoughts had been only prejudices.

During working in the house, Griet's jobs are to clean her master's studio and get meat from a butcher. One of those tasks becomes significant, when the butcher's, Pieter's, son falls in love with her. Things get complicated when Griet just spends time with him and lets him understand she likes him, although the truth is she has to do that only for money and food, the poverty of her family forces her do that. It's hard for her try to explain why doesn't she want to get married with Pieter The Son, and she uses her age as an excuse.

Also working in the studios gets significant when the master notices that Griet is not a 'normal' maid. She sees colors accurate and is artistic, sometimes she knows things even better than the master. These things don't go unnoticed by the master and soon Griet finds herself doing jobs that aren't appropriate for maid to do, starting with mixing the master's colors and finally sitting on a chair part of his painting. She even wears her master's wife's pearl earring without her knowing about that which isn't suitable.

Sitting on the chair as a model leads Griet into the situation where she realizes she has fallen in love with the master. It is clear that it can't last very long like that, when the master is married and his wife doesn't even know he is paintig Griet. The novel ends with a turning point, on the day when Griet turns 18 Pieter comes in the house and asks Griet in marriage. Griet doesn't accept it right away, but on the same day the whole family gets to know about the painting project and that forces Griet to make a decision. She makes a right decision for all.

After ten years Griet has been married with Pieter for a long time, they have two sons and her life seems good. One day her former master's servant comes to her and asks her to come in the house. In the house she hears that the master has died and said in his testament that the pearl earrings must be given to Griet. This information seems to make Griet happier, finally she is free from everything.

My opinion

Did you enjoy the book?

When I started to read the book Girl with a pearl earring I didn't have very high expectations. But when I continued to read it, I surprised because it really was an interesting book. I read a lot but I hadn't read books from 1660's before so it was interesting to learn what life was back then. This book really made me understand how small the complaints are that today's 16 year old teenagers have. In the book this 16 years old Griet has to try to keep her family alive by working from morning until night, and she takes it without complaints, which made me think of how good my own life is. I also liked the book because it was easy to identify with Griet. When she first time goes to live and work in the house she feels homesick and misses her former secure life. To me it was easy to understand her feelings because I have experienced the same things.

Was it well written?

I liked the way the book was written. It gave a real feeling that everything happened a long time ago but there wasn't words that were too 'old' for me to understand. The text was easy to follow and the plot was interesting, I never knew what was going to happen next.

Was the ending satisfactory?

At the end Griet decides to marry Pieter and eventually gets kids with him. I liked a lot that it ended like that because I felt it was kind of gross that 16 years old falls in love with a man who is at least twice as old as she is. I also thought that was the only way things can go because she couldn't have gotten married with her master because he was already married. I also hate sad endings so it was good that at the end everyone was more or less happy; Pieter got Griet, Griet's family got money and food, and if nothing else, Griet got a good husband and kids.

Would you recommend this book?
I would recommend this book. I didn't have to force myself to read this book, when I started it I actually didn't want to stop. It was an instructive book, and I think it's good for everyone to stop sometimes thinking of how easy the life is today and also learn about the life in the past. To me the fact that that the story is based on the true story, Johannes Vermeer actually painted Girl with a pearl earring in 1665, made it even more interesting to read.