In Liliana Heker’s “The Stolen Party,” a young girl named Rosaura sneaks into her friend’s kitchen and spots a monkey, immediately flooded with relief. This odd reaction to a kitchen-monkey is the result of a fight with her mother, who says Rosaura shouldn’t believe everything she’s told just because her friend, Luciana, says so. In fact, Rosaura’s mother doesn’t even think Luciana is her friend, because Rosaura’s mother cleans Luciana’s house for a living, something Rosaura is ashamed of. This cynicism hurts Rosaura because she loves the idea of wealth and wealthy people, and wants to become rich one day. Despite the argument, Rosaura can attend the party and is even given special “privileges” by Luciana’s mother, Señora Ines—pouring orange juice because the other children are too clumsy, passing out cake, and being allowed to admire the kitchen-monkey because the other children can’t enter the kitchen. The only damper on this fun is a girl with a bow in her hair who says she is Luciana’s cousin. This girl says Rosaura can’t be Luciana’s friend because she knows all of Luciana’s friends, and she doesn’t know Rosaura (Rosaura later gets revenge on this girl by kicking her in the shins and giving her a paper-thin slice of cake). When a magician—the owner of the kitchen-monkey—goes onstage, he picks Rosaura to be his assistant after another guest is deemed too “unmanly.” Rosaura does an excellent job, prompting the magician to call her “a little countess.” Rosaura is thrilled by this and tells her mother immediately afterward, instead of staying mad as she had previously intended. Señora Ines asks Rosaura and her mother to stay behind, which worries the latter. Rosaura assures her that she is only going to get them their gifts, like the other guests—the girls get bracelets and the boys get sparkly yo-yos. Sure enough, Señora Ines returns with two goody bags—which she gives to the last two guests. When she turns to Rosaura, Rosaura extends her hand, expecting two gifts, perhaps. Instead, Señora Ines offers her two bills—revealing that Rosaura really wasn’t just a guest after all.
The first technique I tracked was how Rosaura’s perspective affected the story. The reader is given a clear view of Rosaura’s mind and how she thinks—she idolizes wealth and the wealthy, convinced that rich people can do no wrong. By contrast, she is ashamed of her mother for being cynical about her friendship with Luciana and her invitation to the party at all. She believes her mother simply doesn’t know wealthy people like she does, which is as ideal human beings. She is either in denial or doesn’t understand that being given chores at a party isn’t normal, simply chalking it up to her superior behavior.
“I was the best-behaved at the party.”
In fact, she enjoys that she is trusted enough to pour orange juice from a heavy jug and to pass out cake—she feels powerful and proud in those moments.
Rosaura had enjoyed the task immensely, because everyone called out to her, shouting “Me, me!” Rosaura remembered a story in which there was a queen who had the power of life or death over her subjects. She had always loved that, having the power of life or death.
She is both innocent and arrogant, and those two traits lead to her downfall when she realizes she isn’t merely a well-behaved guest—she, too, has become an employee.
The second technique I tracked was how other people’s perspectives affected the story. The first outside opinion we hear is from Rosaura’s mother—that she doesn’t want Rosaura to attend Luciana’s party because she doesn’t believe that Luciana is really Rosaura’s friend.
“That one’s not your friend. You know what you are to them? The maid’s daughter, that’s what.”
The second outside opinion is Señora Ines’s, which is praising Rosaura for being so helpful and well-behaved.
Senora Ines had said: “You yes, but not the others, they’re much too boisterous, they might break something.”
This further lulls Rosaura into a false sense of security and feeds her ego, making her more willing to help. Next, it’s Luciana’s cousin, who affirms Rosaura’s mother’s doubts about Luciana and Rosaura’s friendship and interrogates her about how she knows Luciana, causing her to dodge the question out of shame. The final perspective is the magician’s, who calls her his “little countess,” again feeding Rosaura’s ego. These perspectives cause Rosaura to retreat further into denial, either by praising her and affirming her beliefs, or by doubting her and making her dig her heels in even more. These other people also connect the reader to the story more—we can see the logic in Rosaura’s mother’s fears and cynicism, and the ulterior motives behind Señora Ines’s praise and requests. If the reader were only given Rosaura’s point of view, it could be frustrating, as it is difficult to connect with her idealistic and stubborn perspective—we know guests at parties typically aren’t asked to help with chores, and we know rich people aren’t perfect. These other viewpoints contribute to a heartbreaking but understandable ending that the reader can connect to.
Something I would like to take away from this story is the juxtaposition of perspectives. I have a tendency to focus in on one point of view without the reader getting a chance to get to know the other side and connect with them, and I think that can get frustrating after a while. I’d like to introduce multiple, conflicting perspectives the reader can relate to or sympathize with. I think even if the other points of view aren’t all identical, they can be different variations on a theme the reader can pick up and comprehend.
- Do you think Luciana and Rosaura are actually friends?
- What happened to the money?
- How do you think Rosaura sees rich people now?