Does Mathilde Loisel deserve the punishment she receives? 

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hgarey71 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The question of whether or not Mathilde Loisel deserves the punishment she receives in Guy de Maupassant's short story "The Necklace" requires a close look at the choices she makes in the story, and what motivates those choices.   

Mathilde Loisel's punishment consists of working for ten years (alongside her husband) to pay off a debt. This debt is incurred because Mathilde, a woman of meager means and great pride, borrows a necklace from a wealthy friend for a party. She assumes that the borrowed necklace is made of genuine diamonds. The necklace is lost during the evening, and Mathilde and her husband concoct a plan to replace the necklace without telling Madame Forestier the truth of its disappearance. They find a near-exact replica, but it costs them dearly. They purchase it for thirty-six thousand francs and spend the next ten years working off the debt. 

When Madame Loisel returns the necklace to Madame Forestier, she is nervous that her friend will discover the ruse. 

"She did not even open the case, as her friend had so much feared. If she had detected the substitution, what would she have thought, what would she have said? Would she not have taken Madame Loisel for a thief? 

Madame Loisel now knew the horrible existence of the needy. She made the best of it, moreover, frankly, heroically. The frightful debt must be paid. She would pay it. They dismissed their servant; they changed their lodgings, they rented a garret under a roof." 

If Mathilde Loisel had not been so consumed with pride, she wouldn't have felt it necessary to borrow jewels from a wealthy friend. If she wasn't so consumed with status, she would have been able to be honest with her friend about the necklace's disappearance and then might've learned the truth about its worth. If she hadn't been so filled with stubborn pride, she wouldn't have been compelled to work ten years to pay off the debt for the necklace. Whether or not Mathilde deserved the punishment, it's clear the punishment was self-inflicted. Madame Forestier did not demand a replacement. Madame Forestier didn't demand the return of the necklace sooner than it was returned. If Mathilde had chosen to be honest with the woman who is described as her friend since childhood, the purchase of the replacement necklace would not have been necessary. It is her pride that causes her to make the choices she makes, and pride often goes before destruction.

beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You are being asked to make a value judgement about the consequences of Madame Loisel’s actions in “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant.

Madame Loisel is unhappy with her life. Although she came from a meager background, she longed to live a life of entitlement. She married a common man who worked hard for a living, which allowed his wife to be comfortable. Unfortunately, she longed for more wealth and elegance.

When Madame Loisel borrows a piece of jewelry from a friend to wear to a party, she assumes the necklace consists of real jewels. She dances the night away, enjoying the attention she receives for her beauty.

Unfortunately, as she leaves the dance, she realizes the borrowed piece of jewelry is missing. Instead of telling her friend the truth about losing it, she and her husband replaced the piece with real jewels at great expense. This put the couple in the debt, which they spent many years working off.

Therefore, when answering the question of whether the punishment fit the “crime,” one can conjecture that if Mathilde had told her friend the truth, the friend would have told her the piece was a fake and the price of the piece would have been much less. The destruction of Mathilde’s life can certainly be seen as excessive, but the author makes a point about telling the truth and living within one’s means.