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Compare And Contrast The Characters Of Monsieur And Madame Loisel As They Are Presented In

By scar2331 Apr 13, 2015 1632 Words
Compare and contrast the characters of Monsieur and Madame Loisel as they are presented in ‘The Necklace’ by Guy de Maupassant. ‘The Necklace’ is set in 19th century Paris. In this period of time, the way you lived, worked, interacted and relaxed were defined by your social class. There were three main classes: upper, middle, and lower/working class. The necklace primarily focuses on the desire to be in the upper class. At that time, a woman could not do anything to change her class but marry someone so beauty and wealth were very important. In the story, Guy de Maupassant criticises the upper classes to show how all they cared about was there materialistic possessions. Those who were not in the upper class spent their days dreaming of what life could be like rather than appreciating what they did have in their lives. Guy de Maupassant believed that this led to a shallow and superficial society. In the story, the protagonist is Madame Loisel. Initially, Guy de Maupassant presents her as a materialistic, shallow and ungrateful woman who refuses to be content with what she has, and instead spends all her time dreaming about the life she wants. However at the end of the story she has self-pride at her own accomplishment and she no longer feels the need to have such extravagant things anymore. This change in her character shows that she is a dynamic character. However Mathilde’s husband, Monsieur Loisel is very different. He is a static character so his attitude and character remain the same throughout the story. In the beginning of the story, Mathilde is presented as an ungrateful and self-pitying woman. ‘She was unhappy all the time, for she felt she was intended for a life of refinement and luxury’. This tells us that she does not appreciate what she actually has in her life but instead spends most of her time dreaming of what she could have if life was different. She feels sorry for herself and believes that she deserves more than she has. On the contrary, the character of Monsieur Loisel is portrayed to be a humble and gratified man who appreciates the simple things in his life. He is a bit more realistic about their circumstances and whilst she scoffs at their meals and the simplicity of the dining ware, he values what they have immensely. We know this because of the comment he made about the dinner. "Ah, the good soup! I don't know anything better than that.” As simple as soup is, M. Loisel is completely content with it. This tells us that he is satisfied with his social standing and, unlike his wife, doesn’t feel like he deserves anymore than he has. He has a very positive outlook. Mathilde believes that materialistic possessions bring happiness. ‘She had no fine dresses, no jewellery, nothing’. The writer uses patterns of three to emphasize her lack of possessions. This shows us that all she cares about is wealth and belongings. She has a good husband and a decent standard of living yet she is unhappy as she wants things she can’t have. This makes the reader feel unsympathetic towards her. Monsieur Loisel is a loving, if not submissive, husband.  He wants to do what his wife wants, or anything to make her happy. He doesn’t care about having fancy things in life but knows that his wife does. He is ecstatic when he thinks that he has got something to cheer her up. ‘One evening her husband came home looking highly pleased with himself. In his hand he brandished a large envelope.’ The writer uses the word ‘brandished’ to show that M. Loisel waved the envelope in an excited manner. This tells us that he was proud of himself for getting something good for his wife and makes the reader feel sympathy towards him. However, instead of being delighted with the invitation as her husband had hoped, she ‘tossed the invitation peevishly’. The author used the word ‘peevishly’ to show that Madame Loisel was discontent with the invitation making her seem spoilt and childish. She cannot even pretend to be happy for her husband’s sake. This opposes Monsieur Loisel as she is very self-centred and doesn’t do anything to please her husband. Madame Loisel is selfish as even after her husband went through a lot of trouble to get her the invitation, she can only think about her lack of materialistic possessions. ‘She looked at him irritably and said shortly: ‘And what am I supposed to wear if I do go?’ This shows that she is immature and melodramatic as she acts as if not having something suitable to wear is a huge crisis. She is insensitive towards her husband as he worked hard to get the invite and she doesn’t even thank him. She is also manipulative. We see this as she ask for money to get a ‘decent’ dress. ‘She thought for a few moments, working out her sums but also wondering how much she could decently ask for without drawing an immediate refusal’. She schemes to see how much she can get from her loving husband who she knows will do anything to please her. This shows how ungrateful and spoilt she really is. Monsieur Loisel, on the other hand, is pliant and will do anything to please his wife. ‘He grew a little pale, because he was laying aside just that amount to buy a gun and treat himself to a little shooting next summer on the plain of Nanterre, with several friends who went to shoot larks there of a Sunday. But he said: "Very well. I will give you four hundred francs.” This shows that he is selfless and wants nothing more than his wife to be happy but also wont stick up for his dreams. He truly loves her as he is giving up his dreams for hers but his love seems almost unrequited. He doesn’t understand why his wife wants all these expensive things as he is happy with their life. When she complains about her lack of jewellery, he suggests she wear flowers. “You might wear natural flowers," said her husband. "They're very stylish at this time of year. For ten francs you can get two or three magnificent roses." He doesn’t think about expensive possessions that show wealth like Mathilde. He thinks simple things like flowers are good enough. At the reception, we see Madame Loisel in a completely new light. She is extremely happy which hugely contracts her despair at the beginning of the story. ‘She danced ecstatically, wildly, intoxicated with pleasure’. This shows the reader that she is happy merely because she has an expensive outfit on and people’s attentions are on her. Again this shows how she believes materialistic possessions bring joy, unlike her husband. The author uses the word ‘intoxicated’ to show that her happiness is only momentary, as she eventually will sober up when she goes home. When the necklace is discovered to be lost, Madame Loisel and Monsieur Loisel react in very different ways. Monsieur Loisel is very active in the situation. ‘He went to police headquarters, to the newspaper offices to offer a reward; he went to the cab companies--everywhere, in fact, whither he was urged by the least spark of hope.’ He is doing all that he can do find it even though he had work in the morning and was exhausted after the reception. This makes him admirable. Whereas Madame Loisel does not do anything to find the necklace that she borrowed. ‘She sat waiting on a chair in her ball dress, without strength to go to bed, overwhelmed, without any fire, without a thought. … She waited all day, in the same condition of mad fear before this terrible calamity.’ Even though the necklace was her responsibility, she acts very passively, doing nothing to help find it. This makes her seem rather weak and cowardly compared to her ‘heroic’ husband. At the end of the story, Mathilde has a different view of things. She realizes that she doesn’t need expensive items for happiness much more alike to her husband. ‘Thereafter Madame Loisel knew the horrible existence of the needy. She bore her part, however, with sudden heroism. That dreadful debt must be paid. She would pay it.’ This change in character makes her seem commendable as she is determined to repay their debt. However, in the process she loses her best asset – her beauty! This evokes sympathy from most readers but some feel as if she had it coming for being so spoilt. Guy De Maupassant uses his characters to present his views about the Parisian society at the time. He believed they were superficial, materialistic and driven by greed and selfishness. His characters facilitate the reader’s understanding of his views. They are used to manipulate the reader’s emotions in various ways and to create the ironic twist at the end where the aim/moral of the story becomes clear. I believe that there are lots of different morals that can be interpreted from the story. On one side of things, it tells us that we should live within our means, be grateful for what we have (not greedy) and to be practical. However others see it differently. They believe the moral is that we should swallow our pride and tell the truth otherwise it will come back to bite you. Guy De Maupassant’s skills as writer are amazing as not only is his story full of incredible techniques and morals, he manages to use his characters to present his own views. Even though I had no knowledge as to what the Parisian society was like at the time, I know have a clear idea thanks to the story.

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