Written by journalist and fiction writer Liliana Heker and published in her 1994 collection of short stories, "The Stolen Party and Other Stories," "The Stolen Party" details an upper-class birthday party as seen through the eyes of a 9-year-old Hispanic girl named Rosaura. A seemingly innocent and lively story, "The Stolen Party" quickly reveals itself to be a complex tale that illustrates the effect of class barriers on lower-income children and the painful loss of innocence often faced by those children.
The story opens on Rosaura at the birthday party of a friend, Luciana. Rosaura's mother, Herminia, works as a maid for Luciana's family and tells her daughter before she prepares herself for the party that, in reality, Rosaura is not wanted at the party and is only invited because she is the daughter of the family maid. Rosaura fears that her mother thinks her a liar simply for relating details of the party told to her by Luciana, namely that a magician will arrive and bring a monkey to the party, and resents her mother for most of the story. Rosaura feels that her mother dislikes Luciana's family simply because they are rich; the young girl does not see the social barriers that separate her family from that of Luciana. Despite her reservations, Herminia doesn't shatter the hopes and dreams of her daughter and takes time to make sure Rosaura is presentable.
The party progresses naturally, with games at which Rosaura excels, and food that Rosaura is asked to help serve. She delights in her time at the party as feels special to be asked to help serve the food; the other children are referred to by Luciana's mother, Ines, as "too boisterous." Rosaura is even allowed to see the monkey before any of the other children. At the close of the story, Rosaura waits with her mother near the door as Ines hands out party favors to the children. Excited, Rosaura waits for her gift, only to have Ines hand her money for her help in serving the food, telling Rosaura, "You really and truly earned this."
The Role of Social Classes
In the end, Rosaura realizes that she is no more than a servant to Ines and, more importantly, to Luciana. The story is told through Rosaura's eyes to show how social barriers would naturally seem invisible to a child, as Rosaura simply sees herself as special rather than the maid, and to illustrate the heartbreaking reality of those barriers. The final line in the story serves not only to illustrate this point, but also to illustrate the ignorance of the upper class. This is expressed by Ines' reluctance to withdraw the money even when she sees that Rosaura is clearly crushed by the empty gesture, for fear that "the slightest change might shatter an infinitely delicate balance," in other words, withdrawing the money might make it seem like Rosaura was a guest, an idea that would be unheard of in an upper-class household.
The Loss of Innocence and Meaning of the Title
Even though Herminia explains to Rosaura that she was invited to the party merely out of pity, Rosaura is effectively described as an innocent girl who feels that Luciana is her friend and that she was invited out of this friendship. Regardless, Herminia tells Rosaura to explain that she is "the daughter of the employee and proud if it" should anyone ask. To this, Rosaura's scoffs, seemingly because being a maid is beneath her. In the end, she is relegated to the role of a maid by those she thought to be her friends. In essence, her beautiful idea of the party is suddenly "stolen" from her by her host. The invisible class barriers suddenly become all too real to her at the end of the story, destroying the childlike innocence and sense of wonder that she displays up to that point, opening her eyes to her true place in the family household.
- "The Stolen Party and Other Stories"; Liliana Heker; 1994
- Photos.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images