Analyze the characterization of Madame Loisel by Guy de Maupassant in "The Necklace"?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The first paragraph of the short story "The Necklace", by Guy de Maupassant, gives us a very strong impression of Madame Loisel as soon as we start reading her story.

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. She had no dowry, no expectations, no way of being known, understood, loved, married by any rich and distinguished man; so she let herself be married to a little clerk of the Ministry of Public Instruction.

That depiction shows a woman who has somewhat given up on life and hopes. It is of special importance to note how that last line "so she let herself be married to a little clerk of the Ministry of Public Instruction", makes her look helpless and almost destitute of her own rights.

This description also allows us to know something else about her: That she may have been meant to be a high-born lady and, by some weird miss, she turned out to become a regular anybody. This makes us wonder whether there is something in her demeanor that would set off the idea that she would be an upper class woman. Is it that she is haughty? Does she live above her means?

None of the above. Maupassant goes further on to explain that her problem is that she is a pretty but unhappy woman who aspires to live a life that she could never be able to afford in her current situation. Unfortunately for her character, Maupassant does not offer any sympathy by giving her redeeming attributes. On the contrary, Madame Loisel is annoying, whiny, depreciates her husband, and basically goes all out in that one chance that she gets to mingle with those whom she admires.

However, as Madame Loisel's tragedy comes that same night when she loses her borrowed necklace, we find a woman whose pride is too big to allow herself to tell her friend what happened. In the end, she overpays for the borrowed necklace: It isa fake, and already Madame Loisel had lived like a peasant to try and pay for it.

So, in general, Maupassant wants to show us what happens when one does not accept reality with grace and dignity: The same grace and dignity that are needed to achieve goals and make dreams come true. Madame Loisel perhaps never learns her lesson and, to make it worse, may have turned into an even more bitter person as part of this experience.

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