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The world is made up of a population of shallow people. What matters and is valued in society is not how one behaves, but more so how one stands financially or in social class. The difference in treatment between those different classes is what inspired Liliana Heker to write The Stolen Party, a short story published in 1982. The story follows a maid’s young daughter, Rosaura, and how by experience, learns of the reality concerning her social position. After much argument, Rosaura’s mother allows her to attend her wealthy friend Luciana’s birthday party, despite knowing the consequences of her going. At the party, Rosaura believes that she is being treated specially, with Señora Ines tasking her with jobs that she would not trust the other children to do. She later realizes, however, that she had not been invited to the party as a guest, but as a worker. It does not matter to others how well she behaves as because she is the maid’s daughter, she will never receive the same level of respect or treatment from those of higher class. Through the use of symbolism and conflicts, Heker’s short story The Stolen Party reveals the influence of social class on the received treatment and proves how one’s outward appearance affects the types of relationships they will encounter.
Firstly, Heker uses symbolism to demonstrate the effect of one’s social class on the treatment they receive. For example, throughout the story, the significance of the monkey to Rosaura is made clear to the reader by the constant mentioning of the animal. The symbolism of the monkey and the magician represents the idea of servant and master respectively. This idea is used as a metaphor to describe the relationship between Rosaura and Luciana’s mother, Señora Ines. To explain, as the magician performs his tricks, the monkey is referred to as his ‘partner.’ The monkey is forced to obey every command the magician makes, acting as his servant. To compare, at the end of the party before Rosaura leaves, Señora Ines does not give Rosaura a gift. Instead, she hands her over two bills, stating that “[she] really and truly, earned this, […] [thanking] [her] for all [her] help, [referring to her as] [her] pet” (Heker 5). At the party, Señora Ines commands Rosaura to do certain tasks, such as cut the cake for the guests. Though it seems like a privilege at first, it is later revealed that this was due to the fact that Rosaura had not attended the party as a guest but as a worker. Moreover, the significance of Señora Ines rewarding Rosaura with money describes the miscommunication as a result of social class. It is presumed that Señora Ines was not actively being rude to Rosaura when she “rummaged in her purse. [and] in her hand appeared two bills” (Heker 5), but because of the differences between classes, she assumes that those of lower class want nothing more but money. To those of higher social class, money is the solution to every problem. It is the fault and inequality of social class that leads Rosaura to be treated the way she is in the story.
Furthermore, the conflicts Rosaura faces and the resulting relationships she encounters is the cause of the differences between social class. For instance, during the party, a blonde girl with a bow attending the party as a guest approaches Rosaura, asking her who she is. The naive Rosaura replies, stating that she is a friend of Luciana’s. However, the blonde girl with the bow is not convinced as “[she is] her cousin and [she] [knows] all her friends. And [she] [does not] know [Rosaura]” (Heker 2). Luciana’s cousin then proceeds to question Rosaura of her background and why she is at the party, but Rosaura only says that she is the daughter of the employee as this was what her mother had instructed her to say. This represents the clear division between social classes as though Rosaura believes that she is Luciana’s friend, it is evident that to Luciana, she is simply just the maid’s daughter. Additionally, Rosaura’s relationship with Señora Ines shows the disunity of classes and portrays the reasoning behind the lower class’ hatred on the higher class. When quarrelling with her mother in order to gain permission to attend Luciana’s party, her mother argues that she does not want her going because it is a rich people’s party. Rosaura in turn thought that it was unfair of her mother to accuse other people of being liars simply because they were rich. However it is at the end when Rosaura begins to understand why her mother despised them. Her realization of the unjust treatment she receives as a result of her social class displays in her “cold, clear look that fixed itself on Señora Ines’s face” (Heker 5). Rosaura’s facial expression in this scene represents the acknowledgement of her mother’s words and the understanding that rich people are not the poor’s best friend. As a result, the story exhibits, to a degree, the unlikeliness of friendships forming between those of different social class backgrounds due to the misunderstanding of intent in both parties.
To conclude, The Stolen Party establishes the effect of social class on one’s received treatment and the relationships they face using symbolism and conflicts. The misinterpretation of one’s motive and behaviour towards those of different classes demonstrates the inability for positive relationships to be an outcome in society. Rosaura’s change in personality from the beginning to the end of the story displays how ignorance is bliss, but one will inevitably learn the truth and the pain that follows is the consequence of knowledge. Afterall, as poet Thomas Gray once wrote, where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.
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