Discuss the form and content of Guy de Maupassant's story "The Necklace."
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Guy de Maupassant, a French writer, often provided a morality lesson in his stories. Influenced by Chekhov and O. Henry, Maupassant also offered an ending that had a surprising “twist.” This is true in his story “The Necklace.”
The point of view of the story is limited omniscient third person. This is an important aspect of the story. To keep the reader in as much suspense as the characters, the author restricts the point of view; therefore, the reader does not know that the necklace has little value.
A sad, dismal tone pervades the story. The main character has such a limited scope of reality that it is Mathilde Loisel who dominates the story and the mood. As the story progresses, her character transforms from an immature, whiny young woman into a harden woman who rises to the occasion to pay her debt.
Elements of the short story
The protagonist of the story is Mathilde Loisel. She is a very unhappy, beautiful, young woman who feels that she deserves a better life and situation. Her long suffering husband obviously loves her because he tries so hard to please her. They live in a small apartment which is not as nice as Mathilde would like. They do have enough money to have a maid.
Monsieur Loisel gets an invitation to a grand party that he hopes will please his wife. Not surprisingly, she complains that she cannot go because she has nothing to wear. Taking some money that he had saved for himself, he buys her a new dress. Again, she fusses that she has no jewelry to go with her dress. She borrows a beautiful necklace from a friend, Madame Forestier.
After the party, Mathilde realizes that she has lost the necklace. She and her husband retrace their steps looking everywhere for the necklace. Finally admitting that the necklace is gone, Monsieur Loisel takes his inheritance and borrows the rest to buy a necklace that looked the same as the one that Mathilde had lost. Mathilde returns the necklace to her friend.
For the next ten years, the Loisels live in dire poverty.
Madame Loisel came to know the ghastly life of abject poverty. From the very first she played her part heroically. This fearful debt must be paid off. She would pay it. The servant was dismissed. They changed their flat...
They move into a small, dingy apartment. Monsieur Loisel works three jobs. Mathilde does all of the housework. At the end of the ten years, they are debt free; but Mathilde has lost her beauty. Both of the Loisels are tired and will probably never recover from these hard years.
In Mathilde’s defense, she rises to the occasion. Rather than gripe and moan, she does the work necessary to keep her house going and take care of her hard working husband.
Mathilde goes out for a walk and meets her friend from which she borrowed the necklace. She tells her friend the truth about the loss of the necklace and what they had to do to replace the necklace. Madame Forestier, surprised at hearing the saga of the necklace, relays to Mathilde that the necklace was only costume jewelry and worth nothing.
Mathilde Loisel is a dynamic character. She changes and grows as a person throughout the story. It is sad that the Loisels did not consider telling Madame Forestier the truth. This would have completely changed their lives. Rather than face up to the difficulties of telling the truth, they chose to try to handle the situation alone.
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