Why might Maupassant have made the choice of an unsympathetic character instead of having a sympathetic character suffer?What idea might be trying to getting across to the reader?

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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It is clear that Maupassant does not pity the character of Madame Loisel. She comes across as one who has too much pride. She is caught up in materialism. She does not appreciate the simple things in life. She only cares about riches and fine jewels. She desires servants to wait on her. She is not a favorable character. The reader does not approve of Madame Loisel's attitude. She has a loving husband but she does not appreciate him. She looks down on him because he does not make much money. She is a married to a clerk. She is not grateful for what she does have. She has a maid. She lives in a decent home, yet she is dissatisfied with her life. She dreams of elegance and a luxurious lifestyle:

She has always dreamed of a life of leisure, with attentive servants and a large home, but her lifestyle is decidedly more modest. Ashamed of her social standing, she no longer visits Madame Forestier, an old school friend who has become rich.

Truly, the reader does not feel sorry for Madame Loisel. By the end of the story, she has to really work hard to repay the debt of the necklace she lost. While she is scrubbing floors and damaging her nails, the reader feels she deserves her lot in life. While she did not appreciate her modest lifestyle, she has really come to understand true poverty. Now, she truly understands what it means to be poor. 

No doubt, Maupassant is teaching a valuable lesson. He is teaching the reader that materialism does not bring true contentment. He uses an unsympathetic character to give the reader a chance to see how ungrateful Madame Loisel has been. She has lived her life wishing for the finer things in life. She is prideful and totally unappreciative of having a husband who loves her unconditionally. He tries his best to please her. 

No, the reader has no sympathy for a character like Madame Loisel. She does not appreciate her true beauty. She "suffers incessantly" because of her own selfish attitude. In the beginning, she lives a modest lifestyle, but she does not appreciate the simple things in life until the very end of the story. By the end of the story, she does appear to be more satisfied with the life she was born to live. She admits to Madame Forestier that she has become content with life as it is:

"And it has taken us ten years to pay for [the necklace]. You understand that it is was not easy for us who have nothing. But it is finished and I am decently content." 

After making this comment, the reader feels there is hope for Madame Loisel. Truly, the reader feels that she learned her lesson the hard way, but the reader feels she deserves the struggle she brought upon herself. 

Maupassant teaches the reader a lesson about what really matters in life. He does so through a character who gets no sympathy from the audience. 


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