Expectations of this world And the people in it, Are surely the sources Of our greatest misery. The Uddhava Gita #3
If Mathilde Loisel had a tragic flaw, it was the same flaw that most of us suffer from. She wanted to be admired by other people. She had her own natural charm and beauty, but that was insufficient. She needed a new dress for the ball, and once she had the dress she needed some jewelry. After she borrowed the necklace from her wealthy friend, she felt satisfied with her appearance and she was a great success at the ball. She got the admiration of all the men and the envy of all the women, which were just what she wanted. But she had to pay a terrible price for an illusion. What real good comes from other people's approval? Maupassant was a pessimist. His most important influence was the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, noted for his own pessimistic views of humanity. Here is what Schopenhauer had to say about seeking approval from others.
The anxieties of all of us, our worries, vexations, bothers, troubles, fears, exertions, and so on, are really concerned with someone else’s opinion, perhaps in the majority of cases, and are just as absurd as is the behavior of those miserable sinners [previously described]. For the most part, our envy and hatred also spring from the same root.
Now it is obvious that our happiness, resting as it does mainly on peace of mind and contentment, could scarcely be better promoted than by limiting and moderating these motives to reasonable proportions that would possibly be a fiftieth of what they are at present, and thus by extracting from our flesh this thorn that is always causing us pain. Yet this is very difficult, for we are concerned with a natural and innate perversity. Tacitus says: “The thirst for fame is the last thing of all to be laid aside by wise men.” The only way to be rid of this universal folly is clearly to recognize it as such and for this purpose to realize how utterly false, perverse, erroneous, and absurd most of the opinions usually are in men’s minds, which are, therefore, in themselves not worth considering. Moreover, other people’s opinions can in most cases and things have little real influence on us. Again, such opinions generally are so unfavourable that almost everyone would worry himself to death if he heard all that was said about him or the tone in which people spoke of him. Finally, even honour itself is only of indirect not direct value. If we succeeded in such a conversion from this universal folly, the result would be an incredibly great increase in our peace of mind and cheerfulness, likewise a firmer and more positive demeanour, and generally a more natural and unaffected attitude. The exceedingly beneficial influence a retired mode of life has on our peace of mind is due mainly to the fact that we thereby escape having to live constantly in the sight of others and consequently having always to take into consideration the opinions they happen to have; it restores to a man his true self. Similarly, we should avoid a great deal of real misfortune into which we are drawn simply by that purely ideal endeavour, or more correctly that incurable folly. We should also be able to devote much more attention to solid blessings and then enjoy them with less interruption.
Schopenhauer himself was strongly influenced by Eastern philosophy. He was one of the earliest Western thinkers to take a serious interest in ancient Indian scripture, much of which emphasizes finding peace through relinquishing desire for worldly things. It would seem that Maupassant's "The Necklace" is all about desire for worldly things, which, according to Buddha, is the source of all human suffering. Mathilde Loisel is not to be blamed but to be pitied. We are all, as Schopenhauer says, afflicted with the same "worries, vexations, bothers, troubles, fears, exertions, and so on," The fake diamond necklace is an excellent symbol. It made Mathilde Loisel feel grand because she believed it was real, and everybody else at the ball must have also believed it was real.
Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without. Buddha