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What is the internal conflict in Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace"?

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floydkids | eNoter

Posted August 22, 2013 at 9:15 PM via web

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What is the internal conflict in Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace"?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 22, 2013 at 10:13 PM (Answer #1)

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The only character in "The Necklace," by Guy de Maupassant, who has any real conflict at all is the protagonist, Mathilde Loisel. From the author's first description of her, we sense that Mathilde is not a contented person; in fact, she is virtually simmering with discontent.

Mathilde comes from a very poor family and therefore has little hope, in this society, to marry very far above her present station. Despite that stark reality, Mathilde always felt she should have more than she has been given.

She suffered intensely, feeling herself born for every delicacy and every luxury. She suffered from the poverty of her dwelling, from the worn walls, the abraded chairs, the ugliness of the stuffs. All these things, which another woman of her caste would not even have noticed, tortured her and made her indignant.

When she marries her husband, Mathilde is still discontent; though her life has improved, she still wants more. Her husband is perfectly content with their humble life, and he seems to love his wife despite her unhappiness with everything he provides. When he gives her an invitation to a ball, thinking she will be thrilled to be able to attend something fancy for once, all Mathilde does is complain that since she does not have anything suitable to wear (by her definition, anyway) she would rather not go at all. Her lack of gratitude is appalling, but her husband does what he can to satisfy her.

Mathilde gets a new dress (with the money her husband has been saving over time for something of his own) but is not content with just a few flowers for adornment. She borrows a showy necklace and is still not content because, at the end of the party, she is embarrassed of her coat.

He threw over her shoulders the wraps he had brought to go home in, modest garments of every-day life, the poverty of which was out of keeping with the elegance of the ball dress. She felt this, and wanted to fly so as not to be noticed by the other women, who were wrapping themselves up in rich furs.

Mathilde lives her life in constant turmoil, and her internal conflict is between what she has and what she thinks she deserves. The necklace is lost, and the Loisels have to sacrifice and work for ten years to repay it. It is the great irony of the story that the necklace was not made of real diamonds, which she should have known and could have discovered but was too full of pride to ask. The ten years of true poverty and suffering, however, have made her a better person, or at least a better wife, and she seems to have silenced the internal conflict which caused all the problems. 

What would have happened if she had not lost that necklace? Who knows? Who knows? How singular life is, how changeable! What a little thing it takes to save you or to lose you.

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