Girl With a Pearl Earring

Girl With a Pearl Earring Metaphors and Similes

"I heard voices outside our front door---a woman's, bright as polished brass, and a man's, low and dark like the wood of the table" (3) (Simile)

These similes are used to describe the voices of Vermeer and Catharina the first time they meet Griet. The similes reveal that Griet is a visual person, who is highly attuned to the impact and associations of images, as will be revealed when she works alongside Vermeer in the studio. She converts the auditory nature of the voices into visual images of physical objects. The association of the voices with objects also suggests the wealth and status of the couple: they invite associations with prized household goods.

"His eyes came to rest on me like a butterfly on a flower" (40) (Simile)

This simile is used to describe the way Pieter the butcher's son looks at Griet. This simile hints at her physical attractiveness: in this situation, she draws his gaze just as the beauty and fragrance of a flower would attract a butterfly. At the same time, there is a hint of the wariness she feels whenever man are drawn to her. Although it happens in a relatively benign way, the butterfly feeds off of the flower and Griet is suspicious that once her beauty attracts attention, it will lead to demands being placed upon her.

"Her face lingered like perfume" (43) (Simile)

This simile is used to describe Griet's impression of van Ruijven's wife after she encounters her early in the novel. Her impression of the woman is linked to both her first exposure to Vermeer's artistic skill (his first portrait of her is the first painting that Griet sees him working on) and to a world of luxury and beauty (she is being depicted amidst fine fabrics and pearls). The simile reveals how struck Griet is by this impression, since she continues to think about the woman after she has left, and also how she associates her with luxurious and costly items, such as perfume, a rare and expensive commodity at this time.

"I felt, stinging like fire in my other ear, the pearl he could not see" (209) (Simile)

This simile describes Griet's sensation as Vermeer paints her on the day that she poses wearing Catharina's pearl earrings. The simile reveals the intensity of the pain she feels in her freshly pierced ear; by communicating the pain she is willing to endure in order to please Vermeer, it reveals how deep her feelings for him are. The idea of fire and heat raised by the simile also evokes ideas of passion and eroticism, revealing the desire Griet feels during the painting of the portrait.

"His face became intent like a stork's when it sees a fish it can catch" (64) (Simile)

This simile describes the expression on Vermeer's face the first time that Griet offers an opinion about one of his paintings. The simile shows how interested Vermeer is in seeing how Griet's mind works, and observing her artistic insights. At the same time, the simile is predatory: it reveals the idea of hunting and watching closely in order to benefit oneself, not the object being watched. Thus, from the beginning, Vermeer is shown to be interested in Griet's mind mainly for what he stands to gain from it; we also are able to see the way her mind intrigues and excites him.