The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
“The Necklace” tells the story of a fairly rich couple in France who are invited to a grand ball with some of the richest people in the land. The woman wants to make a good impression so she contacts an old friend and borrows one of the nicest diamond necklaces she has ever seen. Unfortunately, the necklace is lost and the couple go to great lengths to find it. They eventually give up and decide to find an exact replica. In effect, the couple live in poverty for several years only to find that the expensive looking original necklace was made from paste.
In this story there are two main characters – Mathilde and her husband.
Mathilde is presented in such a way that makes her sound selfish. The grand invitation to the ball does not please her: She threw the invitation down pettishly down on the table, murmuring: ‘What’s the good of this to me? ‘ Even when she is given four hundred francs to buy a frock she is not happy.
She grumbles when she realises that she does not have jewellery to wear. Her husband suggests that she go and ask her friend Madame Forestier for a piece of jewellery. Her ungrateful, selfish ways are shown again when she constantly asks if she has anything else.
The night of the ball arrives and Guy de Maupassant uses very colourful language to describe Mathilde: She danced with inspired abandon, intoxicated with delight, thinking of nothing in the triumph of her beauty… she was wrapped in a cloud of happiness. The writer uses a metaphor to describe the woman’s happiness. Commonly, when one is happy, they are described as “being on cloud nine. ” The writer enhances this statement by saying Mathilde was “wrapped in a cloud of happiness. ” Mathilde’s weakness is exposed once again when she runs away from the ball because she does not have an expensive coat like the other ladies at the ball.
She comes across as unbelievably selfish but I soon realise that this could be an exaggerated human reaction. When the couple arrive home, they discover that the necklace has gone astray. The frantically look for it but they have no luck. Mathilde does not seem so selfish at this part of the story but she did not look for the necklace as hard as her husband, Loisel. Instead, she sits at home and waits for him to come home with the necklace. Unfortunately, he does not return with the necklace so therefore they go round many shops looking for a similar necklace.
Eventually they find one and they end up paying a large sum of money to pay for it. Loisel seems to have to find the money from many different people whilst Mathilde sits at home. Mathilde constantly seems to be selfish throughout the whole story. But we then read of how much work Madame Loisel has put into paying the necklace. She, “Did all the heavy work of the house as well as the hateful kitchen jobs’ She also had to do the menial jobs which her maid would have done for her, going shopping in the local market and, “bargaining in spite of their rudeness and fighting for every penny of her miserable pittance”.
Despite that, I do not feel sorry for her because of the way she acted beforehand. In a way, this seems like her pay for the way she presented herself earlier. Madame Loisel returned the necklace to an annoyed Madame Forestier because of the delay for the necklace. The story then skips forward ten years and tells us what happened one day. Madame Loisel has aged dramatically, and as she is walking in Champs-Elysees, she sees Madame Forestier. She decided to tell her of the terrible ten years she has had. She blames Madame Forestier for this:
‘Yes I’ve had a pretty grim time since I saw you last, with lots of trouble – and it was all your fault! ‘ There is a very unexpected ending when Madame Forestier tells Madame Loisel that the original necklace was made from paste. The story ends there and we do not hear of Madame Loisel’s reaction. This story is made memorable by the use of language and the unexpected ending. In my opinion Maupassant describes a scene like this very well and this story has urged me to read more of his work. Yvonne Murray The Nicolson Institute.
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