A Close Reading and Critical Analysis of Liliana Heker’s, “The Stolen Party”
Liliana Heker’s “The Stolen Party,” is a short story about a young Hispanic girl named Rosaura. The main focus of this story is to bring attention to the social gap between people of different incomes, primarily between the rich and poor. The author tries to emphasize Rosaura’s plight while engaging the reader to see things through Rosaura’s eyes, the eyes of a child. Heker plays upon the innocence and purity of childhood to display the sometimes-invisible barriers of social classes in society.
Rosaura is the main character in the “Stolen Party” and came from a poor family. One day she was invited to her rich study partner’s birthday party and asked her mother if she could go. Rosaura’s mother worked for the rich girls mom Senora Ines. She did not think it was a good idea for Rosaura to attend the party due to their social differences but her mom let her go anyway. Rosaura had a blast at the party; she won all the games and got to see the magician’s monkey ahead of time. She also helped out with the magician’s tricks and served cake. She felt very special by the end of the party but her happiness was crushed while leaving, when she did not receive a toy like the other kids. Instead, Senora Ines paid Rosaura for helping at the party. It was then that (to the despair of her mother) Rosaura was forced to open her eyes and face reality. It was then that she got her first taste of inequality. It is easy for us to sympathize with this little girl and her innocence, remembering our first experiences of not fitting in or being judged by others. The author plays upon the great pathos appeal of children all throughout the story. This is an excellent strategy because the destruction of youthful dreams and hopes is something looked down upon greatly in our society.
Another chance for the author to show symbolism in the story has to do with the magician hired for the party. The magician owned a monkey who was kept out of site from the children to ensure their surprise when he used the animal in his skit. To her surprise and glee, Rosaura was allowed to see the monkey before the magician’s skit. She also thought she was privileged when she was asked help serve the drinks and cake. Her pride at being selected by Senora Ines is shown here, “Everyone called out to her, shouting ‘Me, me!’ … She had always loved that, having the power of life and death”: (Heker, 227). We find out later in the story that Rosaura was not as privileged as she (we) thought. When the magician actually put on the show Rosaura was not as surprised by the monkey as the other kids who had not already seen it. Looking back on this part of the story we can follow Senora Ines’s reasoning for letting Rosaura see the monkey. Rosaura wasn’t considered a part of the party so therefore it didn’t matter if the surprise was spoiled for her.
There is another scene in the story which when looked back upon illustrates the futility of Rosaura’s hopes. When the magician called a fat boy up to participate in a trick, the boy failed. He was afraid of the magician’s monkey. Because of the boy’s failure the magician called him, “Unmanly” and a “Sissy”: (Heker 228). Rosaura was chosen next and performed the trick without a hitch, the magician congratulated her and said: “Thank you my little countess.” Rosaura was the subject of much praise at the party but at the end of the story Heker shows this did not matter. Senora Ines is intended to anger us when despite Rosaura’s clear superiority to the other kids she is still considered beneath them.
Throughout her piece, Heker uses literary devices and emotional pleas to increase the effectiveness of her thesis. In one passage, the cousin of the birthday girl insisted that Rosaura shouldn’t be there. That same mean girl asked her where she was from. Thankfully Rosaura’s mother warned her ahead of time to reply to such a question with, “I’m the daughter of an employee”: (Heker, 227). Rosaura’s mother also wanted her to say, “And proud of it.” But Rosaura was not proud of that fact. Rosaura did not like being harassed, so she ignored the other little girl. Everyone else in the party seemed to like her. Rosaura was very naïve to the social stratification around her. She did not comprehend that she was viewed her as different. She was very proud of herself when she did well at tag and was chosen first by the other kids at charades. Rosaura thought she was special when she was chosen to hand out the birthday cake to the other kids. A key strategy in this story is that the author makes a noticeable effort to convince us that Rosaura is right about that.
Heker’s use of a third person perspective in the story garners gives us the illusion of an unbiased perspective. In subtle and unsubtle ways the author encourages us to hope that perhaps Rosaura will prove her mother wrong and truly fit in among the rich kids of the party. This sets us up for an even bigger let down at the stories climax. When the children were leaving, Senora Ines handed out surprises to them. The boys got yo-yo’s from the blue bag and the girls received bracelets from the pink one. Rosaura was extremely excited because she felt she had been so behaved at the party that she might get both prizes. Every belief I held about the subject of the story was shattered when, “Senora Ines didn’t look in the blue bag…nor the pink bag…(instead) in her hands appeared two bills. ‘You have really and truly earned this,’ she said…”: (Heker 229). This startling occurrence adds so much significance to the story, I found myself unconsciously shaking my head. The use of surprise at the end really hammers home the authors main point. Heker builds and builds our hopes and our sympathies for Rosaura up into the last moment, gaining in momentum as the end of the story approaches.
Heker’s point is aimed at everyone, rich and poor alike. She makes it easy for anyone to understand Rosaura’s plight. Her combination of symbolism and pathos appeal twist together to give her story depth and meaning. If Liliana Heker only accomplished one thing in this essay (which is not the case) she made us think. She used the powerful ending to startle us off our biased views of social stratification. She gives all of us no matter what side we come from a fresh look at the world we create for each other, through the eyes of an innocent child.