In Maupassant's story "The Necklace," is Mathilde a sympathetic character? Can you identify with her? Do you care about her at the beginning, or at the end? Why or why not?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I personally care for Mathilde to some degree at the beginning of the story, then care for her more when she loses the diamond necklace, and finally care for her a great deal at the end of the story when she has lost all her beauty and has become disenchanted with life. In the beginning she is a little bit like poor Cinderella, who can't go to the ball because she doesn't have the proper clothes, and it is easy to feel sorry for a girl in such a situation, especially one who deserves better things. When she loses the necklace the sudden reversal from social triumph to potential disaster comes as a shock. I am hoping her husband can find the jewels and that their lives can just return to normal. Then after reading about all the troubles she and her husband have because of the great debt they incur, I feel sorry for a young woman who not only loses her youth and beauty but also loses her charm and all her interest in life.

I can identify with Mathilde because I know how it feels to be in debt and to have my entire income already hypothecated, so that my money is already gone before I even receive it, how it feels to be enslaved to money lenders. In contemporary American vernacular this is what is called being "strapped." I hate doing housework, and I can identify with her having to do all the hard, dirty work that was required in Maupassant's time, such as scrubbing clothes and cleaning chamber pots.

Maupassant was such a powerful writer that I still have the feeling that this incident really happened to this poor girl, and I wish I could do something to help. The contrast between Mathilde Loisel and her friend Mme. Forestier makes me aware of the cruelty and unfairness of life.

What would have happened if she had never lost those jewels? Who knows? Who knows? How strange life is, how fickle! How little is needed to ruin or to save!

One Sunday, as she had gone for a walk along the Champs-Elysees to freshen herself after the labours of the week, she caught sight suddenly of a woman who was taking a child out for a walk. It was Madame Forestier, still young, stilll beautiful, still attractive.

It was ingenious of Maupassant to bring the two women together at the end as he does. Mathilde's friend is still beautiful and now has a child. Mathilde was never able to have a child because they couldn't afford the extra expense. She is not only coarse and shabby but barren. It would be impossible not to pity her, even though she acted foolishly and brought her misfortunes on herself.

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The Necklace

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