Madame Jeanne Forestier
Madame Forestier is a school friend of Mathilde Loisel, and she lends her the necklace that Madame Loisel wears to the ball. Madame Forestier's wealth has intimidated Madame Loisel, preventing her from keeping in touch with her old friend. When Madame Loisel does visit, Madame Forestier is as friendly as ever, generously offering to lend her friend a piece of her jewelry for the ball. When the diamond necklace is returned more than a week late, however, Madame Forestier is cold and reproachful. She does not know that the borrowed necklace was lost and that the Loisels have pledged themselves to years of debt to buy a costly replacement. Years later, the two meet on the street. Madame Loisel has aged prematurely by toil and hardship, while Madame Forestier is "still young, still beautiful, still attractive.'' She does not recognize her old friend when they meet and is ‘‘deeply moved’’ when she learns that the Loisels had spent the last decade in debt to replace her necklace.
Madame Mathilde Loisel
It is Madame Loisel's desire to be part of the upper class which sets the story's events in motion. She is a beautiful woman who feels herself "born for every delicacy and luxury." Her belief that she is meant for better things than middle-class drudgery forms the core of her personality. She believes that superficial things—a ball gown, better furniture, a large house—will make her...
It is a fallacy to assume that a story must contain only action, particularly if it is written by Maupassant. In this, as in many of his stories, there is little or no "action" and very little actually "happens" from the viewpoint of many readers. Yet in "The Necklace," mood and atmosphere are brilliantly created; in this and in many other stories by Maupassant, the sense of life is not diminished when no earth-shattering events happen.
When this story was written, the French Revolution loomed much closer in memory than it does now, and egalitarianism was still a fashionable idea. Though many aristocrats had been executed during the Revolution, a de facto aristocracy of wealth had sprung up. It should not escape the reader's notice that the wealthy Madame Forestier's name translates as "Mrs. Forest-Worker," a name that invokes images of men earning money by the sweat of their brow, not inheriting it.
One of Maupassant's themes in this story is that wealth is admired beyond reason. Matilda deserved the luxuries and leisure and pleasure of wealth no more and no less than anyone does. But when such trappings are hoarded by some and witheld from others, people invest far too much significance in them, as Matilda does. Her envy blinded her to the pleasure her husband took in a simple, but well-prepared meal.
Loisel is shown simply but clearly to be a man of modest talents and appetites, whom any reader should not only understand but would be well advised to attempt to emulate. An insensitive man would not take his wife to the theater, nor would he scheme to get an invitation to an event that would please her. A greedy man would not give his own recreational savings for her dress rather than a gun for hunting with his friends. An ineffectual husband would not search for the necklace or the cab in which it might have fallen, nor would he be able to handle the usurers. A lout would have left his wife to face the consequences alone, without help. A weakling could not have sustained ten year's work at three jobs and monthly renewal of his loans. Loisel is not to be faulted therefore, for being mild and quiet in his habits, without grand ambitions.
The most astonishing technique used by Maupassant in "The Necklace" is that he does not introduce his characters by name as they are brought into the story. They are only named at significant moments in the narrative. The Loisels are not named until their invitation to the Minister's ball is read. The wife's given name, Matilda, is not used until her husband asks her how much a suitable dress would cost. Her given name is not used again until the last page of the story. Her wealthy friend from school is not named until Monsieur Loisel suggests asking Madame Forestier for the loan of a jewel, and Mme. Forestier's given name, Jeanne, is used only once by Matilda in the final scene, where they recognize each other after ten years.
Monsieur Loisel's given name is never used at all. Perhaps this could be seen as depersonalizing this character, and some readers may think that Maupassant is leaving this character unfinished, unreal, or unimportant. This is not true, however. In France in 1880 (and to some extent even to this day) a man's family name is used by almost everyone whom he contacts, far more often than his given name, which is used only by his most intimate friends and family. A boy in a story or in real life would be addressed by his given name, and almost everyone would address a grown man of any social standing at all by his family name.
When the author refers to the little Breton clerk only by his surname, the intention is to represent this character as a grown man with a respectable occupation, rather than as an unskilled laborer or a simpleton. The author may also have intended to show by omission that the wife is...