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What is the theme of Guy de Maupassant's story "The Necklace"?

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wcountrygirl21 | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted February 29, 2012 at 12:02 PM via web

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What is the theme of Guy de Maupassant's story "The Necklace"?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 29, 2012 at 2:12 PM (Answer #1)

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One theme of Guy de Maupassant’s famous short story is the theme of pride – that is, excessive self-regard, which often leads to folly.  It is pride that leads Madame Loisel to want so desperately to be valued in superficial, shallow ways, and it is pride that ultimately makes her unable to confess the loss of the necklace she is loaned.

A reference to the first kind of pride is very strongly implied, for instance, when the narrator comments about Madame Loisel that

She had no clothes, no jewels, nothing. And these were the only things she loved; she felt that she was made for them. She had longed so eagerly to charm, to be desired, to be wildly attractive and sought after.

“. . . these were the only things she loved”: this is a pitiful comment on her character. Instead of finding meaning in deeper, more important aspects of life, she finds meaning only in its most superficial aspects.  And why? Because she wants to be the center of everyone else’s attention and desires. In other words, she is motivated by pride.

Later on in the story, the theme of pride becomes even more explicit. After the Loisels leave the swank party to which they have been invited, the narrator comments that

She danced madly, ecstatically, drunk with pleasure, with no thought for anything, in the triumph of her beauty, in the pride of her success, in a cloud of happiness made up of this universal homage and admiration, of the desires she had aroused, of the completeness of a victory so dear to her feminine heart. [emphasis added]

Here the theme of pride is very openly emphasized, and the other italicized words also imply Madame Loisel’s self-centeredness – her desire to feel superior to others precisely because she has so often in the past felt inferior.

Finally, pride prevents Madame Loisel from confessing the loss of the necklace, and indeed pride in a sense even prevents her from considering that the necklace might not be as valuable as she assumes it is. On the whole, the story is a splendid illustration of the ironies that sometimes result in life when we achieve the very objects of our desires.

 

 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 29, 2012 at 3:09 PM (Answer #2)

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Mathilde Loisel's flawed reverence for material possessions is another major theme in Maupassant's short story, "The Necklace."  Always one to satirize the petty bourgeoisie and the Norman civil servants, Maupassant as narrator writes a litany of the material longings of Mme. Loisel,

She dressed plainly because she could not afford fine clothes, but was as unhappy as a woman who has come down in the world....

She grieved incessantly, feeling tht she had been born for all the little niceties and luxuries of living.  She grieved over the shabbines of her apartment....She would dream of silent chambers, draped with Oriental tapestries and lighted by tall bronze floor lamps....

When Monsieur Loisel brings home the invitation to the Ministerial Mansion, he hopes to bring joy to his pretty wife, but she bemoans the fact that she does not have a dress to wear; then, when he generously offers the money he has been saving for a rifle, Mme. Loisel does not even thank her husband.  Instead she cries that she has no jewels to wear with it.

And, after Mme. Loisel loses the necklace borrowed from her old friend Mme. Forrestier, she never shows any gratitude to her husband who seeks it and then helps her repay the debt incurred when they buy a diamond replacement by "compromising the rest of his life" for her.  She only regrets the loss of the material object.  This necklace has had more value for Mme. Loisel than her loving husband and her old school friend, for when she does see Mme Forrestier years later, Mathilde blames her for her hard life, "Yes, i've had a har time...plenty of misfortunes--and all on account of you!"  It is only then that Mathilde Forestier is told that she has needlessly sacrificed her happiness for a false value.

 

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audall | High School Teacher | eNoter

Posted February 29, 2012 at 1:54 PM (Answer #3)

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Hi Wcountrygirl21,

There are a few themes that are relevant to the story, however the most obvious is that "it is better to tell the truth and face the consequences than try to protect your pride by telling a lie."

1) When Mathilde is upset that she does not have a new dress to go to the ball, her husband spends money they probably don't have to get her a dress.  He is trying to appease her and instead of pleasing her, it makes her more unhappy. His pride allows him to continue attempting to appear wealthy when he just should have said no. When she will not go to the ball without jewlery, they decide she should borrow from jewlery from Madame Forestier.

2.  The moment Mathilde notices the necklace is missing, she should have confessed to Madame Forestier.  Then she would have found out that the necklace was phony, and wouldn't have to work for years to pay for a necklace that wasn't hers.  Because of her pride, she decided to pretend that nothing had happened.  The irony is that because of her pride, she loses the best years of her life, and never has a chance to live the life of luxury she longed for

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