Girl With a Pearl Earring

by Tracy Chevalier

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Describe the personalities of three characters in Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Quick answer:

Griet, Vermeer's wife and his children are the three main characters in "The Girl With the Pearl Earring". Griet is a 16 year old Dutch girl who becomes a maid for Johannes Vermeer and his family. Vermeer's cruel jealous wife, Catharine is also a character. The house-hold also included their five children and Vermeer's mother who was the matriarch of the family. Griet is described as being small but with courage and dignity. After working as a maid in the household she became an assistant to Vermeer and eventually was used as a model in one of his famous paintings.

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Three characters in "The Girl With the Pearl Earring" are: Griet, a 16-year-old Dutch girl who becomes a maid for Johannes Vermeer and his family.  Another character is Vermeer's cruel jealous wife, Catharine.  The house-hold also included their five children and Vermeer's mother who was the matriarch of the family.

In the first chapter we can get a good physical description of the Vermeers.

"The woman (Catherine) looked as if she had been blown about by the wind, although it was a calm day. Her cap was askew so that tiny blond curls escaped and hung about her forehead like bees which she swatted at impatiently several times. Her collar needed straightening and was not as crisp as it could be. The woman's face was like an oval serving plate, flashing at times, dull at others. Her eyes were two light brown buttons, a color I had rarely seen coupled with blond hair. She made a show of watching me hard, but could not fix her attention on me, her eyes darting about the room.

His (Vermeer) eyes (were) grey like the sea. He had a long, angular face, and his expression was steady, in contrast to his wife's, which flickered like a candle. He had no beard or moustache, and I was glad, for it gave him a clean appearance. He wore a black cloak over his shoulders, a white shirt, and a fine lace collar. His hat pressed into hair the color of brick washed by rain." (pg 4)


Vermeer was a fastidious man who was quiet in manner and deed.  He would become one of the worlds most respected painters of his time.  During this part of his life the household was controlled by his jealous wife and her mean disposition was fully aimed at Griet.  Griet was a small girl, but she carried herself with courage and dignity.  Her Protestant upbringing didn't really prepare her to work for a family of Catholics but she carried herself well.  She worked hard and did everything she could do not to shame her family. She was a bright girl and she eventually became his assistant and the subject of one of his most famous paintings.


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