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The sewing samplers are entered into a contest, but the teacher repeatedly tells Jeanette that she does not have a chance to win. For each reason the teacher gives, Jeanette demonstrates why that reason is invalid. The reader is meant to agree with Jeanette that the teacher is merely rejecting her work based on content. Jeanette gains a degree of satisfaction by recalling that Elsie has told her that Joshua Reynolds had soundly criticized the painter G.M.W. Turner for mere aesthetic reasons. After the sampler fails to win any of the prizes, Jeanette gives it to Elsie, who proudly hangs it on her wall. Elsie comforts her friend by saying that even Jesus was scorned.
As the years pass, Jeanette repeatedly tries to win any contest. She discovers that her works without a Biblical theme are far more successful. She wins a horticultural prize, and tries desperately to win an Easter egg painting contest. She creates a dramatic diorama from Wagner, and her egg still loses to three decorated with cotton on top of them. In other contests, she tries countless other Themes, including some from film and the theater. She does not win and her mother is now upset with her for abandoning Biblical Themes.