Do you sympathize with Madame Losiel's terrible sacrifice, or do you hold her responsible for ruining her husband's life? Explain your answer."The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant   Please include...

Do you sympathize with Madame Losiel's terrible sacrifice, or do you hold her responsible for ruining her husband's life? Explain your answer.

"The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant


Please include information about the story's point of view.

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like many of Guy de Maupassant's short stories, there exists in "The Necklace" the satirical element. For, having worked for the ministry much as M. Loisel does, Maupassant developed a disdain for the petty bureaucrats who worked for the French civil service.  As a literary naturalist, Maupassant also portrayed his characters with objectivity and a certain detachment.  This detachment is certainly apparent in his short story.

In his satire of Madame Loisel's humiliation at being merely the wife of a minor clerk in the Ministry of Education, who

grieved incessantly, feeling that she had been born for all the little niceties and luxuries of living

Maupassant has his character pay dearly for her false pride. While Mathilde Loisel causes her poor husband to go into debt and live a hard life of denial with her in order to pay for the diamond necklace that they purchase as a replacement for the borrowed one, she yet speaks with umbrage to Madame Forrestier when she encounters her years later on the Champs-Elysees,

"...I've had a hard time since last seeing you.  And plenty of misfortunes--and all on account of you!"

When Mme. Forrestier asks why she accuses her, Mme. Loisel then tells her that she replaced the necklace with another diamond necklace, and her old school friend, with pity, informs her that the original was not real.

Had Madame Loisel not been so petty and too proud to admit her mistake of losing the necklace, her misery could have been avoided.  Since her "sacrifice" has been futile and completely unnecessary, she, therefore, deserves little sympathy.  On the other hand, her husband is the victim of her selfish pettiness, and may deserve some sympathy.  Yet, the reader wonders why he has not insisted that Mathilde inform her friend.  Is he, too, also proud?  Or too weak?  After all, he has given up the money he has saved for a gun so she could buy a dress for the party. In the naturalistic world of Maupassant, then, he deserves no sympathy,either.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant is told from a third person objective and omniscient point of view. One positive thing about this particular narrative perspective is that the reader can get the complete information about how each character feels, but often channels the actions through the main character. In this case, the main character is Madame Loisell. She is described as a woman who was beautiful, but had no financial means by which she could flaunt her beauty wearing nice clothes, or fine jewels. In fact, she is depressed about this:

Mathilde suffered ceaselessly, feeling herself born to enjoy all delicacies and all luxuries. She was distressed at the poverty of her dwelling, at the bareness of the walls, at the shabby chairs, the ugliness of the curtains.

Throughout the story we can detect a sense of self-serving haughtiness in her behavior. She consistently nags about her situation, making the reader wonder what else could her husband do considering that they are unequivocally unable aim higher in social status.

However, your question asks whether her sacrifice (I assume is paying back for the "diamond" necklace that she lost) is something with which the reader can sympathize.

The reality is that, while it is easy to sympathize with paying back for something we lose that was meant to be loaned to us, it is hard to be sympathetic with Mathilde. Her ambition is too intense and makes her lose touch with her reality, which she could have helped to improve if she were a bit more sensible. She is responsible for the ruin of her husband's life precisely because of her ambition. Moreover, her husband also adds fire to the issue by enabling her somewhat and not putting his foot down.  However, in the end, we see where ambition leads when it is not channeled correctly. It makes us waste valuable time for no reason at all.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Is there any reason that you can't do both?  I think I do.

It certainly seems to be true that she is responsible for making her husband's life difficult.  Having a wife who felt that you were not allowing her to live in the way she wanted to would be very difficult and perhaps (especially in those times) emasculating.

On the other hand, that doesn't mean that what she does later is not a huge sacrifice.  She is making her own life a nightmare because she wants to make good a mistake she made.  This is surely admirable even in a person who has (in the past) been excessively materialistic and shallow.

hilahmarca eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't feel sorry for her.  She couldn't be happy for her lot in life, so now she gets a great lesson on how fortunate she actually was.  She always thought she was deserving of better.  I wondered why she wanted so badly to impress everyone at the dance.  Was it so she could find a rich guy to marry and leave her current husband who loved her dearly but wasn't well off?  I kind of got the feeling it was. 

I feel bad for Mr. Loisel in the end.  Maybe he did get a better version of a wife in the end, but he shouldn't have had to go through everything he did.  He deserves better. 

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

By the end of this story, I always feel better for Mr. Loisel. He loved his wife at the beginning, stayed with her through those difficult years, and ended up with a wife who was much more content. From his point of view, I'm guessing all the sacrifices were worth it. Do I feel sorry for her? Yes, but only because she used these difficult times to become a better person.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator


I don't empathize with her. I consider her selfish and silly. She makes her own bed to lie in, so to speak. She focuses on wealth and looking good for others, and totally loses track of what's important. I can't sympathize with that, but it is very common!

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The Necklace

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