Interpreting “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant The value of interpretive fiction lies in the ability of the story to convey some sort of principle that is translatable to everyday life, illustrating practical truths and the demonstrating moral ethics. Guy de Mauppasant’s short story “The Necklace” is full of interpretive and thematic significance. This significance lies in the ability of the story to convey the idea that it is important to recognize the worth in oneself and not to attach meaning to material possessions.
Another important point that resonates after reading this story is that happiness does not come in the form of material wealth and that greed for material wealth can ultimately function to diminish all that one has. Mauppasant introduces us to the story’s main character, Mathilde Loisel, a middle-class woman who is overwhelmed with her lot in life or lack thereof. She feels as though she has been cheated out of all of the things that are important and resents the fact that she is “one of those pretty and charming girls who are sometimes, born into a family of clerks. The idea of living modestly is a tragic injustice to Mathilde who desires “to be envied, to be charming, to be sought after,” but her unfortunate financial situation will not allow this superficial appearance that she so desires to uphold , “she had no dresses, no jewels, nothing. And she loved nothing but that; she felt made for that. ” One day her husband, a clerk from the Department of Education with whom she reluctantly allowed her family to match her with, comes home with an invitation to a party, an invitation he is sure his wife will be thrilled about.
Her reaction is completely the opposite, she is horrified and questions him, “and what do you suppose I am to wear at such an affair? ” It is at this point in the story that the reader can clearly see how important impression and class are to Mathilde. Mathilde’s husband manages to spare her the money for a new dress but she is still dismayed by not having the appropriate jewellery to finish it off. He suggests to her to ask a friend, Mme Forestier, to borrow something of hers, and she finds the perfect jewel.
It is amazing to visualize Mathilde at the party after her initial reaction to forego, but this piece of jewellery allows her to feel as though she is this high class bourgeoisie woman, “She danced madly, ecstatically, drunk with pleasure, with no thought for anything, in the triumph of her beauty, in the pride of her success, in a cloud of happiness made up of this universal homage and admiration, of the desires she had aroused, of the completeness of a victory so dear to her feminine heart. When the evening is over and Mathilde and her husband return to their home she realizes the necklace is gone and after futile attempts to find it, her husband and her come to the conclusion the Mme Forestier must not find out about this and they replace it. The debt they assume in order to replace this necklace is huge, “Madame Loisel came to know the ghastly life of abject poverty. From the very first she played her part heroically. This fearful debt must be paid off. She would pay it. The servant was dismissed. They changed their flat; they took a garret under the roof. Mathilde was now living the very life that she despised all because of her greed and her vanity. The irony comes at the end of the story when Mathilde and her husband have finished paying the debts and she sees Mme Forestier and feels the need to tell her of the trials that her and her husband had spent paying off the debt for the necklace, “for the last ten years we have been paying for it. You realise it wasn’t easy for us; we had no money. . . . Well, it’s paid for at last, and I’m glad indeed. ” Mme Forestier responds with surprise “Oh, my poor Mathilde!
But mine was imitation. It was worth at the very most five hundred francs! . . . ” After reading this short story by Maupassant it is almost inevitable that the reader will feel frustrated with Mathilde’s stupidity. It seems so ludicrous that someone’s pride could cost them so much; that her life could be so devastated for a piece of jewellery. Furthermore, a piece of fake jewellery! What a scandal! The truth is however that these types of scenarios play out on a day to day basis, although perhaps not as exaggerated as the scenario in this story.
Maupassant wanted the reader to comprehend the arbitrary nature of the necklace, the necklace being symbolic of material possession and social status. What is also important to recognize is that the necklace itself, even when it possessed the power to transform Mathilde into a magnificent, upper class bourgeoisie, talk of the town woman; was a fake. Maupassant is clearly mocking society’s trivial preoccupation with insignificant objects and false appearances. Mathilde Loisel is the vessel that Mauppasant uses to convey some very important messages and criticisms about how we should live our lives.
It is clear to see that Mathilde wasted ten years of her and her husband’s life in drudgery because their pride did not allow them to be honest. What is more tragic is that her vanity allowed it, perhaps even welcomed the suffering in the name of saving face. The Necklace by Maupassant is most definitely an example of interpretive fiction which encourages the reader to consider carefully how important it is to clearly discern those things which are important in this life and those things which are not.