Liliana Heker’s short story “The Stolen Party” is a popular selection for students. This article starts with a summary, then looks at a theme and some questions.
Summary of “The Stolen Party”
Rosaura, nine years old, is invited to Luciana’s birthday party. Rosaura’s mother works as a maid for Luciana’s mother. Every afternoon, the two girls hang out at Luciana’s place while Rosaura’s mother cleans it.
Rosaura’s mother doesn’t want her to go to a party at a rich person’s place and says Luciana’s not really her friend. Rosaura doesn’t think it matters that they’re rich and really wants to go; it will be the best party ever, complete with a magician and a monkey. Her mother doesn’t believe there will be a monkey.
Rosaura’s mother lets her go. She prepares her best dress and helps her get ready. When Rosaura gets to Luciana’s place she asks about the monkey. It’s waiting in the kitchen and she’s able to peek at it a few times. Luciana’s mother, Señora Ines, allows Rosaura in the kitchen because she’s careful.
A blonde girl questions Rosaura about who she is, how she knows Luciana and whether they’re really friends. Rosaura says she’s the daughter of the employee, as her mother told her. They’re interrupted by Señora Ines, who gets Rosaura to help her with the hotdogs.
The other children are pleasant. Rosaura has fun playing the games and is popular. She helps serve the cake to everyone, enjoying the power it gives her.
When they finish eating, the magician performs with his monkey assistant. For the final trick, he needs a volunteer. After one of the boys gets scared, the magician picks Rosaura. While she holds the monkey, he makes it disappear and reappear. He thanks her, calling her a little countess. Rosaura is thrilled with the experience and the compliment.
When her mother comes to pick her up, Rosaura’s not upset with her anymore. She tells her excitedly about the magician and they’re both very happy. Señora Ines asks them to wait a minute, which worries Rosaura’s mother. Rosaura expects to get the parting gifts she’s noticed everyone gets. Señora Ines returns with two gift bags, giving an item from each to the two other kids about to go home.
She goes back over to Rosaura and compliments her to her mother. To Rosaura’s surprise, Señora Ines doesn’t reach into either of the bags. She reaches into her purse instead, pulling out some money. She extends it to Rosaura, telling her she’s earned it. Rosaura’s arms stiffen, she leans into her mother, and she looks intently at Señora Ines, who stands unmoving with her hand outstretched.
Theme: Class & Social Status
The boundary of class is one of the story’s most prominent themes.
Rosaura’s mother, Herminia, is acutely aware of class barriers, and she doesn’t seem interested in breaking them down. She criticizes her daughter’s desire to associate with rich people by using a coarse expression, drawing attention to her own class.
She doesn’t want Rosaura going to the party simply because the hosts are rich. She also says Luciana is not really her friend. This assumes that a nine-year-old would have the same awareness of class as the adults, which is possible but unlikely.
Herminia distrusts rich people simply for being rich. She doesn’t believe there’ll be a monkey at the party, and mocks Rosaura’s credulity. Even if Herminia doubts this because it came from a child, it’s still related to the child’s affluent background, as if she’s being raised to make things up.
At the party, the blonde girl draws attention to class as well. She questions whether Rosaura really belongs there, claiming she knows all Luciana’s friends and Rosaura isn’t one of them. This tells us that despite their closeness, Luciana and Rosaura only get together because of their mothers’ employer/employee relationship.
This doesn’t prove Herminia right about Luciana not being Rosaura’s friend, because we don’t know who’s responsible for it. Has Luciana ever asked to invite Rosaura to something before? We don’t know. Perhaps she has but her parents didn’t think it appropriate. Regardless, it does tell us that the class difference is keeping them from getting closer.
The story’s powerful ending throws the class divide into Rosaura’s, and our, faces. Her happiness is shattered when she realizes she wasn’t invited to the party but was hired as domestic help. Again, this doesn’t necessarily tell us how Luciana views her; it was Señora Ines who hired her. Luciana could have thought Rosaura was there as a friend. Nevertheless, Señora Ines doesn’t see Rosaura as a friend for her daughter. She sees her as an underling who is only suitable association for Luciana if the circumstances dictate it—being there when her mother is working or when she’s working herself.
1. Is there any foreshadowing?
The interaction Rosaura has with the blonde girl foreshadows the ending. The girl tells her directly that she’s not Luciana’s friend. Her line of questioning is to root out the real reason Rosaura is there, as if she couldn’t possibly be a party guest. In the end, we find out Señora Ines was thinking along the same lines as this girl.
2. What does the final image mean?
The story ends with Señora Ines standing still with her hand outstretched with the money in it. Fortunately, the narrator gives us some insight into what it means, explaining “As if she didn’t dare draw it back. As if the slightest change might shatter an infinitely delicate balance.”
Señora Ines might not “dare” to draw her hand back because this change—not paying Rosaura for her time—might shatter the balance, that is, the friendly but businesslike employer/employee relationship she has with Herminia and Rosaura. That’s the only kind of relationship she wants with people from a lower social class.
It could also be interpreted to mean that Señora Ines is on the verge of a realization herself—that she’s been judging people based on their social status, not on who they are. She obviously can’t stay frozen in this position forever. The delicate balance of her life might be about to shatter with Rosaura’s refusal to take the money.
3. Does the story present class barriers as being insurmountable?
No. Despite the story’s sad ending, it also gives reasons to be hopeful.
The strongest feelings of class distinction come from the two mothers. They seem to agree that their daughters can’t be genuine friends. This suggests these feelings are felt more strongly by the older generation and that they’ll fade with future generations.
The blonde girl notes Rosaura’s status as an outsider, but this is not necessarily because she feels superior because of their class difference. She hasn’t seen Rosaura at other gatherings where Luciana’s friends are present. When she finds out Rosaura is the daughter of a family employee, she doesn’t say anything disparaging. She simply seems to be trying to prove that she’s right, as a kid might do about any number of things. As with Luciana, the class distinction might not be on her mind at all.
All the other interactions Rosaura has at the party with the other kids are good. She’s especially popular with the boys, presumably because she’s good at the games, and they accept her without reservation.
The magician also picks her out of the crowd to join him on stage. This is after one of the boys proved unable to handle the strain of the moment. This suggests he picked her because she looked able to handle it—judging her based on her ability, not on her status.