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Girl with a Pearl Earring


"Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Tracy Chevalier

Summary Overview

"Girl with a Pearl Earring" delves into the life of Griet, a 16th-century Dutch girl who becomes a maid in the household of the renowned painter Johannes Vermeer. The novel explores the complexities of art, class, and desire through the lens of Griet's experiences in the Vermeer household.

Main Characters

  • Griet: The protagonist, whose life takes a dramatic turn when she starts working for the Vermeer family.
  • Johannes Vermeer: A masterful painter with a mysterious personality, whose interactions with Griet are central to the narrative.
  • Catharina: Vermeer's wife, often at odds with Griet due to jealousy and social class.
  • Maria Thins: Vermeer's mother-in-law, who recognizes Griet's utility and supports her in subtle ways.

Plot Summary

Griet, coming from a humble background, enters the Vermeer household and soon finds herself entangled in the intricate family dynamics and the artistry that defines Vermeer's life. As Griet becomes more involved in Vermeer's work, assisting him with his paintings, she navigates the challenges posed by her position, including the moral and ethical dilemmas that arise from her close relationship with the painter.

Themes and Analysis

The novel touches on several themes, including the power dynamics within households, the role of women in society, and the intersection of art and daily life. Griet's journey is a profound exploration of personal growth amidst the constraints of society and class. Chevalier uses the historical setting to weave a narrative that is as much about art and its impact as it is about the human condition.


"Girl with a Pearl Earring" is a testament to Tracy Chevalier's ability to breathe life into historical figures and settings. Through Griet's eyes, readers are offered a glimpse into the Dutch Golden Age, exploring the complexities of art, love, and social hierarchy.