“The Stolen Party” by Liliana Heker
“The Stolen Party” by Liliana Heker
If we lived in a perfect world, everyone would be equal, everyone would have the same prestige and we would all live in peace. Unfortunately, we do not live in such a world. In Liliana Heker’s story, “The Stolen Party”, we are reminded of the thin line that separates the lower class, the less fortunate, from the upper class, the “better people”. In an instant, we see all the discrimination and inhumane treatment some people feel they have the right to inflict on those whom they consider “not one of them.” The story is about Rosaura, the nine-year-old daughter of a woman who does housecleaning for a wealthy family. Rosaura often accompanies her mother to work and does her homework with Luciana, the daughter of the house. As a result, or so she thinks, Rosaura is Luciana’s friend and has been invited to her birthday party. The first evidence we see which supports the claim that this story is about class structure, comes when Rosaura’s mother, Herminia, says to her, “I don’t like you going, it’s a rich people’s party.”
This lets the reader know that Herminia is aware of the ways of the world. When she tells her starry-eyed daughter who is full of hope and innocence that, “The problem with you, young lady, is that you like to fart higher than your ass,” she’s trying to convince Rosaura that she is shooting too far above her social station. She tries to explain to her daughter that the people will look at her as “the maid’s daughter” and not as another person, but Rosaura is only nine and “one of the best in her class”,and she feels that Luciana is her friend and that she has been invited to Luciana’s party any other guest, as an equal. At this point in the story, Rosaura is unaware of discrimination in our society. This is confirmed when Rosaura says, “Rich people go to heaven too.” The main idea conveyed here, is that adults recognize social boundaries which children do not see.
-1- Rosaura “wanted to go to that party more than anything else in the world.” She feels great determination to become a part of her friend Luciana’s lifestyle, even though it would mean rebelling against her mothers’ wishes. Here we see that Herminia is trying to make her daughter aware of the difference between Luciana’s family and her own family. We can presume that her mother has experienced an incident like this in the past and wants to protect her daughter from being hurt by the harsh reality that she is of a lower class than her “friend,” a reality which makes it impossible for the two of them to ever really be friends.
Even though both families are of Spanish descent, they live in opposite worlds. It is evident that Senora Ines has had a more successful life than Rosaura’s mother has. She lives in a “beautiful place” and has maids and servants. She can afford anything she wants and lavishes her daughter with a party. On the other hand, Rosaura’s mother is a maid and can’t afford the luxuries of such a lifestyle. Rosaura, still young and naive, hopes to one day be in the same place as her friend. Rosaura lives in a fantasy world where nothing bad happens, and she is blind and innocent to the unfair treatment surrounding her. What she will soon realize is that she is living in a real world where she will learn that she is a victim of class structure which keeps the rich on top and the people like her and her mother at the bottom of society.
When Rosaura is preparing to go to the party, she is trying to make an impression. She is pretending to be something she’s not because she wants to fit it. She wears her “Christmas dress” and her mother “washes her hair with apple vinegar so that it would be all nice and shiny.” As the party begins, we encounter the barriers of class and status when Luciana’s cousin confronts Rosaura about her place at the party. It is obvious that this girl “with the bow in her hair” is -2- familiar with the class structure boundaries by the way she treats Rosaura.
In response to her questions, Rosaura recites the line, “my mother’s an employee,” a face-saving yet revealing statement that had been instilled in her head. The girl persists by telling Rosaura that just because she does her homework with Luciana doesn’t mean they’re friends. Rosaura lets this roll off her back just like every other thing that has been said to her that day. It seems that she is repeatedly getting introduced to the idea that there are social classes, but this does not come together until the end of the story.
As the party continues, Rosaura feels awfully privileged because she is “the only one who was let in the kitchen,” the only one who is allowed to serve drinks and hot-dogs, supposedly because “she knew the house better than the others,” and the only child who could help pass out birthday cake. Rosaura looks at these tasks as being helpful and enjoys them immensely. She also played games and “won the sack race” and the boys chose her to be on their team of charades. It is at this point that Rosaura feels like she is one of them. She has been accepted in their world and it is the happiest day in her life.
Rosaura will remember this day forever, but not for the happiness it gave her. For she will soon learn a lesson she will never forget. When the party ends, Rosaura’s mother comes to get her. As the children leave, they are handed gifts from a “pink or blue bag.” Senora Ines comes over and instructs Rosaura to wait. Rosaura’s mother seemed worried that what she suspected all along was about to happen, but all Rosaura could think of was how excited she was to get her party favor. When Senora Ines returned, she told Herminia: “What a marvelous daughter you have.” This made Rosaura proud and “for an instant, Rosaura thought that she’d give her two -3- presents: the bracelet and the yo-yo.” After all, she was “the best-behaved at the party.” However, when Senora Ines bends to give Rosaura her party favor, it is neither a bracelet, nor a yo-yo. She hands the girl two bills, saying “You really and truly earned this. Thank you for all your help, my pet.” In these two sentences, we are presented with the ultimate clash of social levels, and the real nature of the relationship becomes clear.
At that moment, staring at Senora Ines’ outstretched hand, Rosaura was no longer the sweet, innocent little girl who had hopes for a better life. She was now an older, wiser and bitter young woman who was condemned for where she lived and who her mother was. “Rosaura felt her arms stiffen,” and her “eyes had a cold, clear look.” Any hope Rosaura had of bettering her situation was no longer important, because she finally understands that to some people, she will always be “the maid’s daughter.” Senora Ines was very secretive in her true intentions for Rosaura. She knew that little Rosaura would feel uncomfortable being there if she was to be a servant, so she worked around that by making all of Rosaura’s chores seem like privileges. She thinks this treatment is acceptable because Rosaura is the daughter of the maid and not of a high-class background like herself. A good host, as Senora Ines thought she was, would never ask a guest for help.
She took advantage of Rosaura’s excitement and naivety and turned it to work to her own advantage. Herminia’s motherly intuition told her from the start that going to the party was not a good idea, but she had to let Rosaura learn from experience. Senora Ines had no choice but to give Rosaura money instead of a toy, because she was very careful not to break the class line; she had to make sure that Rosaura stayed in her place. Rosaura had been thrown a dose of the real world.
It becomes painfully clear to her that there is a “delicate balance” that separates Rosaura and her -4- mother from Luciana and her mother. In the story, we are not told whether the money was accepted, but either way, accepting the money was Rosaura’s way of life and the only way she could get anywhere. This will continue the cycle of social class that will continue to suppress Rosaura and her family to come. Rosaura will have to diligently strive in everything she does if she is going to go anywhere in life.
Heker’s story demonstrates that children create worlds of their own out of their familiar surroundings. She writes through the eyes of a c child which enables us to associate with the young protagonist. She relates the injustices of a child’s life to us, injustices we are all familiar with. “The Stolen Party” establishes that the social parameters that we normally expect to be confined to the adult world, unfortunately applies to the world of school children as well. The title of the story illustrates the innocence stolen from Rosaura at the party. In a perfect world, this would never happen. Innocence would not be stolen, dreams would come true and people would look at each other with acceptance, not ignorance. The truth is that it’s not a perfect world, and the line never disappears. It is just that some people make it more noticeable than others do.