What details bring out the contrast between the life Madame Loisel wishes to lead and the life she really leads in the first six paragraphs of the story "The Necklace"?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Several passages directly contrast the life Madame Loisel wishes she led with the life she does, in fact, lead.  For example, the narrator says that

The sight of the little Breton girl who came to do the work in her little house aroused heart-broken regrets and hopeless dreams in her mind.  She imagined silent antechambers, heavy with Oriental tapestries, lit by torches in lofty bronze sockets, with two tall footmen in knee-breeches sleeping in large arm-chairs, overcome by the heavy warmth of the stove.

In other words, though Madame Loisel does have a servant girl who comes to help with the "little" household duties, the sight of this girl, contrasted with Madame Loisel's dreams of fancy footmen, professional servants so to speak, only makes her feel sad.  Further, her "little house" contrasts unfavorably with the mansion full of fancy rooms, furnished with rich fabrics and precious metals, of which she dreams.  

Moreover, meal times prove to be a source of pain, as well, because the reality contrasts so distinctly with the fantasies Madame Loisel has.

When she sat down for dinner at the round table covered with a three-days-old cloth . . . she imagined delicate meals, gleaming silver, tapestries peopling the walls with folk of a past age and strange birds in faery forests; she imagined delicate food served in marvellous dishes, murmured gallantries, listened to with an inscrutable smile as one trifled with the rosy flesh of trout or wings of asparagus chicken.

The tablecloth is used and worn instead of white and pristine.  The food itself is simple instead of "delicate" and choice.  Madame Loisel imagines dinner parties with rich guests and rich fare, surrounded by gorgeous tapestries of a bygone era and feasting with utensils that shine.  Despite her husband's satisfaction with the simple dinner of their actual life, Madame Loisel is made miserable by thoughts of what she does not and cannot have.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Madame Loisel wants to be wealthy, but she is really just the wife and daughter of a clerk.

In the first six paragraphs of the story, Mathilde is described as being pretty but poor.

The girl was one of those pretty and charming young creatures who sometimes are born, as if by a slip of fate, into a family of clerks.

As a result, Mathilde “suffered ceaselessly” because she wanted the finer things in life and could not afford them. She longed for pretty dresses, nicer furniture, and a better flat. She had “no jewels, nothing” and was not happy about it.

What makes matters worse is that she had a friend who was rich. This was a woman she had gone to school with. The disparity between herself and her friend frustrates her, and makes her even sadder and more depressed.

The first six paragraphs describes Mathilde's point of view in a third-person sort of way, but we do not develop sympathy for her.  She comes across as a whiny and selfish woman who wants what she can't have for no particular reason other than the fact that she thinks she deserves it.


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The Necklace

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