The Hired Girl Part 3 Summary

Janet, as Joan is now known, is settling in to life as a hired girl for the Rosenbach family. They are the wealthy Jewish family which has taken her in. She is learning how to cook and clean for them and more importantly how to get along with Malka, the housekeeper.

Shabbos, which is celebrated every Saturday, takes a great deal of work to prepare for. All the food for Friday supper and for all the Saturday meals must be prepared before sundown on Friday. In addition to all the cooking, the house must be cleaned until it is spotless in anticipation of the day. This is because according to Jewish doctrine, no work at all is allowed from sundown Friday until the end of Saturday. The only person in the household who can do any work is Janet, because she is Gentile.

Janet is learning to speak very carefully to Malka because she takes offense very easily. Janet found this out the evening Malka made a dish which included raisins as an ingredient. Janet does not like raisins, but she tried to eat it anyway. Malka found out Janet was not fond of raisins and took it as a personal insult. She and Malka are learning to get along though, making life easier for both of them.

Mrs. Rosenbach told Janet that she will be paid six dollars a week, have every Tuesday afternoon and Sunday morning off, and she has been given the position of parlor maid. Mrs. Rosenbach even provided Janet with uniforms to wear and hair pins. Janet is very happy to have this position and the salary that goes with it.

One afternoon Janet crosses paths with Solomon on the main stairway. She has been anxious to see him alone ever since he rescued her from the park; she wants to thank him for his kindness. After she tells him how grateful she is for his help, he tell her, "I'm glad everything's worked out so well. For your sake, and for Malka's." That is the moment Janet realizes that she is just a servant to him and the rest of the family; this is the when she fully realizes the class differences between her and them.

Mirele, the twelve year old daughter of the Rosenbach's, has decided she and Janet should be friends, she does not understand how her befriending a servant is seen as unseemly. She takes Janet to the department store her father owns to shop for a hat, books, and new nightgowns. There they run into Nora Hemmelrich, she is the girl Mirele told Janet Solomon is in love with, together the three girls spend the day shopping. Afterward Mrs. Rosenbach lectures each girl about their behavior. She tells Janet that she must work on her deportment and lets Mirele know she must not befriend the parlor maid.

Mrs. Rosenbach has decided it would be alright for Janet to borrow a book at a time from the family library. Janet is allowed to read only at night after her work for the day is done. One night, in an attempt to see the print on the page better, Janet holds the candle close to the book. Her hair braid is too close to the flame and catches on fire. In her haste to put out her burning hair, Janet drops the book and the candle causing the bed quilt to catch on fire, and the book to split its spine. Malka hears the fuss, sees the fire and douses the whole bed including the book with water. Mrs. Rosenbach awakened by the noise rushes into the room to see the scene. She is also ambushed by the very upset Malka who has seen the crucifix that Janet has hung up above her bed. To Malka, the crucifix is a symbol of the cruelty the Jewish people had to endure at the hands of Christians.

The next day Janet is called in to see Mr. Rosenbach, she is very afraid she is about to be fired. Instead he shows concern for any possible harm she might have suffered from the fire, he explains Malka's reaction to the crucifix, and allows her to use the library at night after the family has gone to bed. In return, Janet has to apologize to Malka and attempt to understand her feelings towards Christians, who treated her cruelly in Germany.

One night as she was sitting in the park, Janet saw Mirele running up to her. They heard a kitten that was stuck up in a tree and rescued it. The two of them decided to keep the kitten and raise it. Mrs. Rosenbach had other ideas, she did not want another cat in the house as they already had one cat. She told the girls they needed to return it to the park. Janet could not part with the kitten and snuck it up into her room. She realized she would need help in convincing Mrs. Rosenbach to allow the kitten to stay, so Janet went to Solomon for help. He told her if his mother said no, then she as a servant girl had no right to go against his mother's wishes. He did promise to help find the kitten a good home, which he did by giving the kitten to his married sister.

Janet has also started to once again attend Catholic mass. She has even asked the priest to give her lessons so that she can be confirmed. Her faith in God has been strengthened by all that she has been through in the past few months.

This section of the book shows how Janet is discovering her role in the household. She often mistakes kindness for equality, she is then crushed when reminded that she is a servant and not a member of the household. This section points out the differences in class, not just economically, but also religiously.

Related Links:

The Hired Girl Part 3 Quiz
The Hired Girl Part 4 Summary
The Hired Girl Part 5 Summary
The Hired Girl Summary
The Hired Girl Quotes
The Hired Girl Important Characters
The Hired Girl Quiz
Literature Summaries

To link to this The Hired Girl Part 3 Summary page, copy the following code to your site: