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Hanneh is a woman who dreams of improving a corner of their home—the kitchen—in anticipation of her son's return. As the kitchen for many people, over hundreds of years, has been the heart of the home, this is where Hanneh invests all her energy. She works for a wealthy woman whose home is beautiful and white. So by doing extra work, Hanneh saves pennies here and there and paints the kitchen herself.
Everyone she brings in to see it thinks it is beautiful, and that the beauty of the room has come from her heart. They are thrilled and wish her much happiness for this achievement...all except her husband.
Hanneh's husband has nothing good to say. He tells her that she should have saved the money she earned for a "rainy day." He criticizes her for improving her landlord's property: the apartment does not belong to them—they rent it. Her husband has no appreciation for the beauty she has brought to their home, and has no words of praise for her.
When the landlord raises the rent because the apartment is so much improved and can bring in more money for him, all Hanneh's husband can do is tell her "I told you so." He offers her no comfort and no encouragement. He nags her to the point that she chases him out of their flat (tenement/apartment) with a frying pan.
Like the landlord, Hanneh's husband cannot see the kitchen as a thing of beauty. For both characters, they cannot appreciate beauty for the sake of beauty: they can only see its value in terms of how it serves self (landlord) or others (Jake's perception that it does them no good); neither can appreciate the loveliness of what Hanneh has accomplished in beautifying the room.
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