The NecklaceGuy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace” is situational irony written in 1884.
The story was written in a time when there were very distinct social classes primarily determined by one’s birth. It is about a woman who can not come to terms with her position in the middle class. Although she knows she can not escape her class, she refuses to accept it gracefully. It is through Matilde that Maupassant develops the story’s irony. This is reflected through Matilde’s daydreaming, which only serves to torment her, the loss of the necklace borrowed for show, which only worsens their economic position, and finally, their unnecessary sacrifice.The irony begins with Matilde’s frequent daydreaming. She is a beautiful and charming woman who feels “herself destined for all delicacies and luxuries” (Hartzog, 2003).
Fate, however, placed her among the middle class where life was very simple. For her, the only means to a more affluent class was through her imagination. She dreams of “large silent anterooms, expensive silks and of achievement and fame that would make her the envy of all other women” (4). What she fails to realize is that these daydreams only make her more dissatisfied with her real life. As a result, she becomes more focused on what she does not have rather than what she does have.Contributing to the irony is the borrowed necklace. Matilde’s husband brings a coveted dinner invitation home, and her first reaction is concern for appearances. She tells her husband that they can not possibly go because she has “nothing to wear” (Maupassant 5).
Her husband agrees to buy her a new dress. This, however, is not enough for Matilde; she needs jewelry. She explains that, without jewelry, she will appear “shabby in the company of rich women” (Maupassant 6). In her quest to present herself as a wealthy woman, she decided to borrow a “superb diamond necklace” (Maupassant 6) from a friend. Unfortunately, upon arriving home, Matilde noticed that the necklace was lost. When the necklace can not be found, Matilde and her husband have no choice but to replace it. As a result, Matilde’s desire to appear part of the upper class has only succeeded in making them part of a lower one.The irony of “The Necklace” can be found primarily in the manner in which Mathilde’s efforts to progress is actually the cause of her downfall.
Maupassant, acting as narrator says, “How little a thing it takes to destroy you or to save you” (Maupassant 10). He says this in retrospect to the incidents following the loss of the necklace, rationalizing that Mathilde’s obsessions that drove her to borrow the necklace are the cause of the dismal state she finds herself in at the end of the story. Had she not chosen to focus her efforts on appearance, she may not have gone through the hardships she did. There is also irony in Maupassant’s placing Mathilde in a low level of society, even though she demonstrated sufficient class to be a part of a more desirable denomination of society (“Necklace”).There is a mutation of character during the course of Mathilde’s working life in which Maupassant describes how she is reduced to “haggling, insulting, and defending her measly cash penny by penny” (Maupassant 10). This contrasts greatly with the Mathilde at the beginning of the story, who has hope and shows modest complacency despite her difficult financial situation.
What began as a desire for a better life ultimately erased any chance of her actually experiencing one. The irony of this story takes its root in the standards society has for people and how Mathilde’s efforts to meet these standards brought about misery instead of happiness.The primary source of imagery in “The Necklace” is the necklace itself, but there is also much imagery in the life that follows the loss of the necklace. The necklace itself represents the luxury that Mathilde desires to exhibit but is in fact an illusion (“Necklace”).
When the fake jewels are presented before her, she believes that “she found a superb diamond necklace in a black satin box, and her heart throbbed with desire for it” (Maupassant 7). Her persona as a dreamer is revealed profoundly to the reader when even a sample of what she desires is presented before her.The necklace being fake may also be symbolic of how being part of the upper class does not have much intrinsic value. When the simple though underprivileged life she once led is shattered, her personality dissolves and she becomes increasingly jaded. “She had become the hard, strong, and rude woman of poor households” Maupassant describes.
The mops, dishes, and other accessories of the kitchen represent the life of servitude she now lives. She may now enter the homes of those more privileged than her although cursed to perhaps never partake of the lifestyle of the people she works for. All of this hard work leads to a deterioration of her personal beauty, which she foolishly traded for the beauty of a stone.Mathilde’s life and personality are slowly warped by the consequences of borrowing and losing her friend’s necklace. Regardless of her course of action she finds herself confined to her poverty. Although the central problem of “The Necklace” is largely an issue of vanity, it is denied improvement by the hold society has on women. Ultimately Maupassant implies that social inequality is a source of corruption and that those who long for high class and thereby support it are marked for ruin. The measuring of a person’s social “worth” by the measure of their wealth is not limited to Mathilde’s world or to France during Maupassant’s lifetime.
It is a concern that stems from the nature of human beings who have insisted and still insist on hoarding resources for the exclusive use of those who are deemed worthy of it. Maupassant therefore uses “The Necklace” to express his grief primarily over the flaws in the human psyche that are present in all people and the oppression fabricated from these flaws.This story teaches the lesson not to lie because you will ultimately pay for it. The case in point, the necklace. While they lied, and pulled off the replacement necklace, they could have saved all the hardships and tough times had they told the truth and taken the blame for what was coming to them. Instead, they went through and elaborate plan just to get a new necklace.
Actually finding out that you replaced a very cheap imitation with the most expensive replica must be tough, but what is done is done and there is nothing that can be done about it now.ReferencesHartzog, Anna, et al. “The Necklace.
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