Psychological Analysis of Griet in Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

6 June 2016

When Griet encountered a difficult situation where she was thrust unexpectedly, she seemed aware of the other components of her behavior. She was able to recognize that it was just one of the components that made up her total behavior, thus, she remained in control of her life even if she lived with total strangers possessing different eccentricities.

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As important as the “feeling” component is, she knew she had the ability to change what she does, how she does it, and what she thinks. As she sits huddled in a chair or engrossed in a housework, she remained in total control of her surroundings, making her attractive to master painter, Vermeer.

She possesses a strong identity and she clings to this and develops a sense that this identity is becoming more stable. Real or imagined, an adolescent’s developing sense of self and uniqueness is a motivating force in life.

Tracy Chevalier`s Girl With a Pearl Earring maintains that Griet, the 16-year-old Dutch girl in the story breezes through the Vermeer household despite the intrigues because she is at that stage when she is confident about her capabilities. Adolescent girls similar to the age of Griet have a generally calm and perceptive manner. It is because of this that she finds favor in the eyes of her master, Vermeer.

A. Her loving Protestant family supports her in her new experience.

Add to this is the fact that she was brought up in a family with the right values. Even as she asks her father about the decision, we get a feel of her thoughts. Her father gently tells her of the household where she will be working.

She derives her strength from her family.  In fact, she is able to separate what may probably be just an opinion of one person and the truth of a situation. She answers nonchalantly when teased about a boy who might have taken a fancy at her and states, “I’m sure he’s paying me no more attention than he is with other girls.” In effect, she is able to differentiate things and put them in context. Adolescents are more likely than children to describe themselves with contextual or situational variations.

Measuring self-esteem and self-concept has not always been easy, especially in the assessment of adolescents (Wylie, 1969). Identifying adolescents’ sources of self-esteem—that is, competence in domains important to the self—is critical to improving self-esteem.

Self-esteem theorist and researcher Susan Harter (1990) points out that adolescents have the highest self-esteem when they perform competently in domains important to the self. Therefore, in the case of Griet, her parents encouraged her rather well saying to her that she could work in the household of the Vermeer. This encouraged her to identify and value her areas of competence at such a young age, no matter how menial the task started out to be.

B. Her self-confidence is boosted by Vermeer’s gesture to paint her.

Further on in the story, her self-esteem grew even more as she was tasked by Vermeer to help him out more directly in the work and, even more so, to pose as the subject of his painting job. The moment when he wanted her painted was a big boost to Griet’s personality. She knew that her family valued this man highly.

And thus, Vermeer’s gesture at acknowledging her efforts made her truly bloom. It is at this point that Vermeer draws her out and makes her the subject of his painting. Vermeer slowly incorporates her into the work that he does and this is where we see how the young Griet reacts to such a gesture. Griet does not entertain any false illusions that she is now the favored one. She does not get proud or haughty at all even if Vermeer’s wife is erratic.

2. Griet’s innate resiliency carries her through her new task.

Griet’s “here-and-now” attitude and resiliency are commendable because she is able to see the beauty and urgency of the present and blend this well in her set of experiences. She cannot be holed up in the kind of thinking that mulls over what the future holds. She is idealistic about the future, ever more confident about what it holds. She basks in the beauty of whatever the present holds.

This is understandable as we look at discourses of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development where we see that many adolescents begin to think in more abstract and idealistic ways. Consider Griet here as her mother tells her that she will soon be a woman. Not all adolescents describe themselves in idealistic ways, but most adolescents distinguish between the real self and the ideal self.

A. She takes her new role with a refreshing kind of expectancy.

We glimpse Griet’s attitude of differentiation in this particular phase of her life. Girls her age are supposed to just enjoy their adolescence instead of serving other households. But she easily slips into this new role because she has no assumptions or prejudices about what she was about to embark. Adolescents her age are indeed able to adapt well given a different environment because for them, the new environment provides new challenges.

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