How does the necklace in this story relate to the story itself?
Maupassant was strongly influenced by the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), and Schopenhauer was one of the first Europeans to become interested in Eastern religion and Eastern thought in general. An essential belief in both Hinduism, or Brahmanism, and Buddhism is that suffering is caused by desire. Buddha said that desires for material things are like poisoned arrows in the flesh, and his message was that people could attain peace and freedom by ridding themselves of desire. The influence of Eastern religion and philosophy via Schopenhauer can be plainly seen in many of Maupassant’s stories and novels, and especially in his best-known short story “The Necklace,” in which an intrinsically useless but beautiful object seems to symbolize all material things and the desires they arouse.
Madame Loisel’s life is poisoned by her unfulfilled desires for material things. She regards her personal charm and beauty as a gift which should have brought her luxury and social status. Her triumph at the Ministry ball is only an assurance that she could have had all the things she envied in other women—the fine house, the servants, the furnishings, the carriage, the clothes and jewelry, the gourmet foods and wines, the aristocratic friends, and all the other material things that went with wealth.
Maupassant’s message in “The Necklace” is clear. He shows how wanting material things leads to a lifetime of suffering and toil for both Mme. Loisel and her husband. Desire not only causes personal suffering but inflicts it on others. The diamond necklace is a perfect symbol. Nothing could represent desirable material possessions better than a diamond necklace, and it is especially appropriate to the moral of Maupassant’s story that the necklace turns out to be false.
Many people in our own time spend their lives chasing after material things and going into debt in order to acquire them. They may be temporarily happy when they get what they are seeking, but there are always other things to want. Desire is practically synonymous with suffering because desire always involves wanting what you don’t have.
The necklace in the story is certainly a symbol, and it carries along the plot line, as well. The necklace acts as a symbol of Mme. Loisel's vanity when she borrows it, it acts as a symbol of the loss of her dream of admiration and a more pleasurable life when she loses it, and it acts a symbol of her years of "punishment" for having been vain and too dishonest to tell her friend the truth. Had Mme. Loisel not been quite so vain, she would not have borrowed the necklace in the first place, and she would not have lost it or been condemned to years of poverty and hard work, so without the necklace, we would have no story at all.