Girl With a Pearl Earring

by Tracy Chevalier

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What weakness or flaw did Griet reveal when dealing with Catharina in the beginning of the chapter?

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Near the beginning of the first section of the book, titled "1664," just one aspect of Griet's behavior irritates Catharina and permanently causes the older woman to dislike her. It's when Griet has arranged the chopped vegetables in an artistic wheel of colors instead of just throwing them all into the soup.

First, this behavior attracts the attention of the artist Vermeer, Catharina's husband, and Catharina is subsequently annoyed by the attention that he pays to Griet. She's jealous. Catharina herself has no artistic abilities or even an appreciation of art, and she calls it "prattle" when her husband talks to Griet about the colors of the vegetables.

Second, Griet's behavior indicates to Catharina that she won't be a very good maid. Arranging vegetables in a nice little rainbow wheel is a waste of time if you're trying to get dinner prepared, especially for a large family like Catharina's. Catharina assumes that Griet is barely competent as a maid and thereafter never compliments her work; she only complains when Griet makes an error.

In sum, Griet's artistic tendencies are a weakness, or a flaw, in Catharina's eyes, and the young girl reveals those tendencies by arranging the vegetables and discussing their arrangement with Vermeer.

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