How is verbal, dramatic, and situational irony expressed in the story "The Necklace"?    Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Necklace," a marvelous tale of the falsity of materialism as a value, Guy de Maupassant employs with perfection the incongruity between what is stated and what is really meant (verbal irony), or between what is expected to happen and what actually does happen (situational irony), or between what the reader and audience know, but the character does not (dramatic).


In the exposition, Maupassant portrays the materialistic Mathilde Loisel,who grieves for herself because she feels that she has been born for "all the niceties and luxuries of life."  When her bourgeois husband, a government clerk, brings home an invitation, he expects Mathilde to be happy, but she is not.

In another instance of situational irony, Madame Loisel's dreams of a better life worsen because of her vanity and desire for material objects.   By insisting that she wear some pretty jewelry, Mme. Loisel is told by her husband to borrow from a friend. When she does borrow a beautiful necklace, Mme. Loisel loses it and this lost causes her untold grief.  So, in her quest for materialism, she is left with less than what she originally had as she and her husband pay dearly for her loss.  (She moves from bougeoisie to poverty.)

In yet another instance of situational irony, Mme. Loisel assumes that people of the upper class only value expensive things.  When she  first sees the necklace that she does borrow, Mme. Loisel asks

"hesitatingly, pleading, 'Could I borrow that, just that and nothing else?'"

because she believes that it is very costly. She cannot imagine that Mme. Forestier would have an inexpensive article simply because she likes it.  Ironically, of course the necklace is not expensive.

This situational irony leads to the final, most crucial situation irony.  At the end of the narrative, Mme. Loisel finally has lost her false pride which has kept her from telling Mme. Forestier that she has lost the jewelry lent to her and she approaches Mme. Forestier on the Champs-Elysees one Sunday.  When she confesses the loss and then boasts of having paid for it by working and sacrificing, Mme. Forestier looks at her with pity, saying,

Oh, my poor Mathilde.  But mine was only paste.  Why, at most it was worth only five hundred francs!"


Because she does not have what she believes is the proper attire, Madame Loisel tells her husband,

"Give the card to some friend at the office whose wife can dress better than I can."

Mme. Loisel, of course, hopes by saying this that her husband will offer to buy her a new dress. Then, as the day of the party nears, Mme. Loisel complains that she has nothing to wear on her dress:

"I'll look like a pauper:  I'd almost rather no go to that party."

Again, by saying this Mme. Loisel means that she wants some jewelry so she can go.

Read the study guide:
The Necklace

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