The Necklace Essay

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.

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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.

The Necklace Essay

The Necklace

Guy 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.

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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.


Hartzog, Anna, et al. “The Necklace.” Character Analysis. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 21 Apr. 2003. October 13, 2008.         20Necklace/character_analysis.html

Maupassant, Guy de. “The Necklace”. Literature An Introduction to Reading and Writing. 7th. ed. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E Jacobs. Upper Saddle River: Prentice         Hall 2004. 7-10.

”The Necklace.” Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale,         1997. October 13, 2008.


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