Is Madame Loisel spoiled in "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mathilde Loisel lived in 19th century France.  In that time, women had very few rights.  She was married to whom her family chose for her.  Then, her husband becomes her master.  She stays home while he works and goes out into the real world.  At the time of the story, Mathilde has no children, few friends, and apparently nothing to do with her time.  She daydreams about having a different life. 

She suffered intensely, feeling herself born for every delicacy and every luxury… She let her mind dwell on the large parlors, decked with old silk, with their delicate furniture… prepared for the chat with the most intimate friends…

Unfortunately for Mathilde, the reader is able to see into her dreams and judge her for her materialistic desires.  Like many young, immature women, she longs for what she does not and maybe will never have.

Madame Loisel appears to have few redeeming qualities. Greedy, whining, ungrateful, unhappy—these are the adjectives which might best describe Mathilde in the first part of the story. Spoiled—she may be somewhat because she is fortunate enough to have a maid. Mathilde’s problem epitomizes the  many desperate housewives who want to be someplace else and be someone else.

Lucky she is because she has a husband who loves and wants to please her.  On the other hand, she does not seem to have a close bond with him at all.  It is not apparent that she is even attracted to him.  What a guy! He stays with her no matter what foolish things she desires. When he brings home the invitation to the ball, he awaits her pleasure and does not receive it:

Why, my dear, I thought you would be glad. You never go out, and this is such a fine opportunity. I had great trouble to get it. Everyone wants to go...

Lacking in maturity and the ability to see into her husband’s heart, she is unable to feel anything but her own selfish needs.   Even through the hardships of paying back the money for the necklace, he stands beside her.

Mathilde Loisel represents a round character because through the events of the story she changes and grows.  No longer interested in the materialistic aspects of life, she does think back to what would have happened if there had been no necklace or if it had not been lost.

Madame Loisel philosophically says: What would have happened if she had not lost that necklace? Who knows? who knows? How strange and changeful is life! How small a thing is needed to make or ruin us!

Once she's poor, at least Mathilde busys herself with a purpose. She can no longer be bored and useless. All her hardship and work are to repay the debts. Possibly, Mathilde's better off when she is poor than when she was young and beautiful and wishing she was someone else.  The lesson here might be: Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it!

Read the study guide:
The Necklace

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