The Jewelry (or The False Gems)

by Guy de Maupassant

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Does the story "The Jewelry" belong to Realism, or Naturalism?

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The story has elements of both Realism and Naturalism in it. By “Realism,” critics mean fiction that is written in such a way as to convey to the reader a sense of everyday life or the ordinary course of events. Naturalism, on the other hand, is a literary reaction to post-Darwinian theory, in which characters are seen as “higher-order animals” whose actions are guided solely by heredity and environment. (See M.H. Abrams's A Glossary of Literary Terms, 7th ed.) On balance, though, I read the story as being more Naturalistic.

Maupassant’s matter-of-fact retelling of the story of Lantin does give us a sense of what everyday life was like for him, even when the story turns shocking (the realization that all Madame Lantin’s costume jewelry was actually real). On the other hand, the characters do seem motivated by base instincts, in keeping with Naturalism. Of course Madame Lantin, who was such a prize, is having an affair. Her marriage to Lantin, and her “love” of theatre, may be genuine, but it is also undoubtedly a cover for her real lover, the purchaser of the jewels. Lantin’s sudden greed when he finds that the jewels are real undermines whatever “love” he felt for his wife, and his second marriage, also loveless and based on money, is unhappy. The end of the story suggests that such a fate is inevitable, and that virtue (like Lantin’s love for his wife) is simply a cover for greed.

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The story "The False Gems," or "The Jewelry" belongs to the category of Realism. One of the topics of the realists, of which Guy de Maupassant was one, was a discussion in their work on the fidelity and infidelity in marriage on all social levels.

This story has a plot that revolves around the marriage of M. Lantin and his wife and the fact that she enjoys social outings to the theater, and has a passion for fake gems. The gems, are in fact real, so she is having an extramarital affair in order to satisfy her desire to attend the theater and ends up acquiring a lot of beautiful jewelry from her lover.

"Extramarital affairs are the subject of such major works of realist fiction"

"The realists endeavored to accurately represent contemporary culture and people from all walks of life. Thus, realist writers often addressed themes of socioeconomic conflict by contrasting the living conditions of the poor with those of the upper classes in urban as well as rural societies."

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