The Necklace Questions and Answers
by Guy de Maupassant

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Closely examine the passage in "The Necklace" at Madame Forestier’s house when Mathilde discovers and borrows the necklace. What symbolic elements are being used here by the author?  Explain.  

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When Mathilde visits Madame Forestier's home in order to borrow jewelry to wear to the ball, she is dazzled by an array of pieces. Her various reactions to the different pieces (and the pieces themselves) symbolize her self-identity, desires, and fate.

Madame Forestier presents her with a “large box.” Like life, this large box contains many options, each leading to a different appearance or identity. Mathilde resents what she considers her unfair identity as a middle-class housewife and thinks she deserves more. The jewelry symbolizes the higher status to which she aspires as well as the appearance she thinks she deserves. To Mathilde, life should be a large box or mansion filled with riches instead of a small apartment with shabby items.

The first pieces she sees and dismisses are bracelets and a pearl necklace. To her, the undescribed and unremarkable bracelets are probably too plain and do not represent her as she wishes to appear at the fancy ball. Symbolizing innocence, purity,...

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In this passage, Maupassant uses a number of words to convey the ultimate "sinfulness" in Madame Loisel's final selection of her friend's jewelry pieces.

He describes her physical reaction upon discovering the necklace by saying that her heart began to beat with "immoderate desire." He goes on to say that with "shaking hands", she holds the necklace to her "breast" and "heaving dress." Finally, he writes that she gazes upon herself in the mirror "in ecstasy." All of these terms, usually associated with lust, suggest that Madame Loisel is committing the sin of vanity, since vanity is often considered to be lust for one's self.

The passage is therefore an important one in that it provides foreshadowing; here, Maupassant shows us that Madame Loisel is fully engaged in a sinful act, and one for which she will pay dearly, as we learn at the end of the story.