How does the author represent certain characters, cultures, and places in "The Necklace," and why?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Necklace" as in many of his stories, Maupassant has written from his own experience of having been a civil servant; he criticizes the Normans (those who lived in what was called the province of Normandy in northwestern France). He believed they, like Madame Loisel, would bicker over the smallest things and be petty, querulous, and suspicious of one another. This aspect is naturalistic and much like the style of Emile Zola, who felt that civilization was but a veneer covering the baser instincts of man. Maupassant's realism stems from the powerful influence of his mentor, Gustave Flaubert, who also introduced Maupassant to other artists. Having written his own epitaph, "I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing," Maupassant's own personality mirrors some of his personages.

This epitaph can readily apply to Madame Loisel, whose nature is one of dissatisfaction. For, when her husband hands her an invitation to the Ministerial Ball, an invitation envied by others, Mathilde Loisel complains, "What do you think I have to go in?" Then, after her husband gives her the money for a new dress, she complains that she has no jewelry to wear. Certainly, Mme. Loisel's pettiness and self-interest are exaggerated in a naturalistic manner as she allows her self-serving pride to prevail. Instead of admitting to her aristocratic friend from whom she has borrowed the necklace that she has lost it, Mme. Loisel forces her husband into a life of deprivation and misery in order to pay back the cost of having bought a replacement. In fact, the Loisels live a mean existence which they would not have had to do; and, yet, the petty Mathilde blames her friend, Madame Loisel:

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

"Of me....How do you mean?"

Mme. Loisel tells Mme. Forestier that she has been working for years; then, surprisingly, she is told by Mme. Forestier that the necklace which she replaces with a new diamond one that cost the Loisels years of skimping and saving was only a faux diamond necklace.

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The Necklace

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