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Necklace

By alelay Apr 15, 2013 1481 Words
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Task 1: Mathilde Loisel is a wholly unsympathetic character who brings about her downfall and deserves her fate. How far do you agree with this assessment of her character? Remember to comment on how language, view point and tone convey character and meaning in the story.

In‘The Necklace’, Guy de Maupassant introduces a character full of faults. Indeed Mathilde Loisel comes across as a wholly unsympathetic protagonist for whom the reader feels nothing but contempt. She accepts neither her rank, nor her way of life. It seems obvious that greed, dissatisfaction, selfishness and her talent to manipulate others are Mathilde’s fatal flaws which lead to her deserved downfall. But on the other hand, she could be seen as a very unlucky character and a victim of the randomness of life. This aspect leads the reader to wonder if she is completely responsible for her social decline, even though he does not feel pity or sadness for her.

The first thing that comes across in Mathilde’s character is the fact that she is a materialistic, superficial and conceited woman. Indeed, throughout the whole short story and especially at the very beginning, the author pictures her as if her appearance was the only thing that counts for her. She wants to be physically marvellous and seducing men is her only interest: “she would have given anything to be popular, attractive, and in demand”. This aspect of her personality is clearly enlightened during the party at the Ministry Buildings:

The day of the reception arrived. Mme. Loisel was a success. She was the prettiest woman there, elegant, graceful, radiant and wonderfully happy. All the men looked at her, enquired who she was, and asked to be introduced. All the cabinet secretaries wanted to waltz with her. She was even noticed by the Minister himself.

In this description of Mathilde, Maupassant, feigning just to describe her, obviously mocks and criticizes his character. Indeed, thanks to the use of words and expression belongin to the imagery of appearance such as “success”, “radiant” and “all men looked at her”, the reader can only figure Mathilde out as a conceited woman: she is obsessed by the way she looks and the effect she has on men (even though she is married). At this point, we indeed see her as an utterly unsympathetic character and we almost wish that she would be punished for her lack of respect towards her husband. We can also note that, after the party, when her husband kindly gives her a coat so that she would not get cold, “she pushes him away because she doesn’t want to look poor due to her shabby cover”. Again, we can see that all the matter for her are appearances, and also how ungrateful she is. Moreover, from the very beginning, we are immediately stricken by how her materialism and superficiality. One of the reasons for this can be found in her necklace choice: she chooses the one she thought was the fancier, because she wants to appear as a wealthy woman. She conceitedly thinks that she deserves a higher rank: “She had no fine dresses, no jewellery, nothing. And that was all she cared about; she felt that God had made her for such things”. Moreover, the way Maupassant describes the necklace (“magnificent”) as well as her reactions are well-representative of Mathilde’s way of thinking. “Her heart began to beat with immoderate desire”; “Her hand shook as she picked it up” are the expressions he uses, which shows us that she is really only interested in superficial things. It sounds as if she was really money obsessed: she wants material possessions. The reader can see from this that for Mathilde, the rich life, unlike the dingy apartment she lives in, is exciting and glamorous, almost magic, like the “oriental tapestries” she dreams of. For her, being middle class is synonym of boredom; being wealthy means live in a fairy tale. And that is her materialism and her need to seduce men which will mainly bring her to her downfall: she will be punished for being so superficial, and will ironically lost the only thing she owned, her beauty, replace a necklace which was actually a fake one. But materialism, conceit and greed are not the only aspects of her personality that one has to consider to explain the reasons of her social decline: the reader finds out that she is also selfish and completely ungrateful of what she has.

Indeed, Mathilde is also a character full of dissatisfaction and selfishness. We obviously note that aspect from the very beginning of the story: she is never satisfied with anything. When her husband brings her the invitation, all she can think about is the dress she wants. When she gets the dress, all she can think about is the jewels she doesn't have. And when she visits Mme. Forestier, she's not really satisfied with any of her jewel collection – she keeps asking, “Have you got anything else?” But more than that, she is completely dissatisfied with her entire life: “She was unhappy all the time, for she felt that she was intended for a life of refinement and luxury”. In her opinion, she deserves better, so she spends all her days dreaming of what she would never have: “She dreamed of silent antechambers hung with oriental tapestries, lit by tall, bronze candelabras, and of two fall footmen in liveried breeches asleep in the huge armchairs, dozing in the heavy heat of a stove”. This constant dissatisfaction makes Mathilde come across as a wholly unsympathetic character, who is always complaining of what she does not have. Therefore, she does deserve her fate, because she needed to face such a hard situation to realise what she had before. Before that, she lives in dreams, and makes his husband’s life a hell to make him pay for her dissatisfaction. Indeed, she is also very manipulative and capricious: she is ready to do everything to get what she wants. And the main victim of her selfish caprices is her husband. Very cleverly, she manages to drive the conversation with him so that she would finally get the amount of money she wants to get a new dress. She put all her energy in this conversation, even starting to cry, and Maupassant clearly underlines here the fact that “she thought for a moment, working out her sums but also wondering how much she could recently ask […]”: she is obviously an expert manipulative woman, which makes her appear as an even more hateful character that clearly deserves her fate. Moreover, despite all her faults, she is very proud of herself, especially at the end when she tells Mme Forestier “with a proud innocent smile” about the tick she uses to replace her lost-necklace. But how can she be proud of her while it is her entire responsibility to have lost this necklace, and moreover while the party night, all she has done was stay in the apartment, waiting for her husband to find a solution?

In summary, we can therefore argue that her materialism, greed, selfishness and talent to manipulate others are Mathilde’s fatal flaws. At the same time, these aspects of her personality make of her an utterly unsympathetic, odious and even hateful character, which makes the reader think that she completely deserves her fate. In addition, she ruined her husband life just for one of her selfish caprices. But, though she is totally detestable, one could also argue that the lack of chance plays a certain role in her downfall.

Indeed, on the other hand, luck and circumstances are really not on Mathilde’s side. First of all, seeing the satinwood case from a famous jeweller, she could not guess that it was actually a fake one inside. Moreover, she happened to lost it. And then her entire life turns into a nightmare, just because of the fear she has to tell her friend the truth. Therefore, the reader might feel afraid and pitiful. Not really for Mathilde, who is definitely a hateful character, but more for the horror of the situation, and by the fact that this situation, though the circumstances are quite extreme, could happen to anyone.

In conclusion, it is mainly Mathilde’s detestable personality, but also her lack of chance that brings her to her downfall. By and large, she fully deserves her fate. The question one could ask is why does the author created such an unsympathetic character? The answer could be that, through his character, Maupassant wanted to paint bad sides of mankind. Indeed, as a realist author, he believed that fiction should convey reality with as much accuracy as possible. Thereby, he strived for objectivity rather than psychological exploration or romantic descriptions, in a way to enable the reader to understand that, after all, life is not a fairy tale at all.

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