The Necklace

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The Necklace

About the Author

Henri Rene Albert Guy de Maupassant was born on August 5, 1850, to an affluent family at the Chateau de Miromesnil, in France. As a child, Guy adored his mother and loathed his absent father. His mother was very literary and passed on her love of books to her son, Guy, and his brother, Herve. Much of Guy’s childhood was spent in the countryside playing sports or simply spending time outdoors.

Point of View

Third-Person Omniscient

The story's focus is certainly on Mathilde, but the narrator does not speak from her point of view. Instead, he talks about Mathilde as if he were from the outside looking in. When he brings her up at the beginning, she's just "one of those girls" (1). It sounds like he's seen a lot more of them than just this one. That's omniscient, all right. Mathilde's also not the only character whose thoughts he can see into; he's able to speak into her husband's thoughts just as easily, when he wants to.

Overview

Mathilde Loisel is “pretty and charming” but feels she has been born into a family of unfavorable economic status. She was married off to a lowly clerk in the Ministry of Education, who can afford to provide her only with a modest though not uncomfortable lifestyle. Mathilde feels the burden of her poverty intensely. She regrets her lot in life and spends endless hours imagining a more extravagant existence. While her husband expresses his pleasure at the small, modest supper she has prepared for him, she dreams of an elaborate feast served on fancy china and eaten in the company of wealthy friends. She possesses no fancy jewels or clothing, yet these are the only things she lives for. Without them, she feels she is not desirable. She has one wealthy friend, Madame Forestier, but refuses to visit her because of the heartbreak it brings her.

Theme
The Necklace Theme of Wealth

"The Necklace" gets its title from the gorgeous piece of diamond jewelry that drives the story's plot. The expensive nature of the necklace is not the only way in which wealth is central to this story. The main character of "The Necklace" is obsessed with wealth. She wants nothing else than to escape from her shabby middle-class life with a shabby middle-class husband and live the glamorous life for which she was born. She's so jealous of her one wealthy friend it hurts. When Mathilde's given the chance to get decked out in diamonds and go to a ritzy party to mingle with all the beautiful people, it seems like her dreams have finally become a reality. Then she loses the borrowed diamond necklace, gets cast into poverty, and learns what it means to truly live without money.

The Necklace Theme of Women and Femininity

Mathilde Loisel, the main character of "The Necklace," is a 19th century French version of a desperate housewife. Because she's a woman in a man's world, she has almost no control over her life. She finds herself married to a husband she doesn't care for, and cooped up in a house she despises. What she wants more than anything else is to be desirable to other men. And what's particularly irritating is that she has all the "womanly virtues" she needs in order to be desirable: she's charming, graceful, beautiful. She's just doesn't have the necessary wealth. Does Mathilde Loisel capture the tragic plight of the modern, middle-class woman? Is she a victim of the patriarchal society in which she lives? Or is she just a shallow and materialistic character?

Characters

* Madame Jeanne Forestier
Madame Forestier is a school friend of Mathilde Loisel, and she lends her the necklace that Madame Loisel wears to the ball.

* Madame Mathilde Loisel
It is Madame Loisel’s desire to be part of the upper class which sets the story’s events in motion.
* Monsieur Loisel
Monsieur Loisel’s complacency and contentment with his social situation contrasts markedly with his wife’s desire to experience life among the social elite.

Settings

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