Is "The Necklace" humorous or frightening?  Does the author want the reader to cry or laugh?Is "The Necklace" humorous or frightening?  Does the author want the reader to cry or laugh?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A meticulous observer of mankind, Guy de Maupassant wrote often of what motivates people, how people react to one another, and what values people possess.  Thus, his narratives, written in simple, precise language that has an austere power, have, at times, the tone of a psychological report. Like his mentor, Gustave Flaubert, Maupassant shared a disdain for bourgeois values and a pessimism towards life.

It is this disdain for bourgeois values that Maupassant communicates in his story, "The Necklace."  As a civil servant himself, Maupassant recognizes the bourgeois as the antithesis of the working class.  He portrays this class as one to which Mme. Loisel aspires, a class of false values.  As such Maupassant's "The Necklace" examines how the desire for social status and the possession of material things affects the psyche of people.  Clearly, there is an almost naturalistic tone to this story which generates pessimism. Not a frightening story, but certainly disturbing as one contemplates the shallowness and pettiness of a woman who never appreciates the friendship of Mme. Forestier or the love of her unselfish husband.

mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't find the story particularly humorous; it is more satirical in its style of humor, if there is a style of humor present at all.  If anything, the author wants the reader to possibly be amused be Mathilde's materialism at the beginning; however, it soon takes such a sour note that humor of any sort is driven out of it.  I'm also not even sure the author wants us to cry--the better question is, if he wants us to cry, who or what does he want us to cry for?  I don't think he wants us to cry for Mathilde--the tale seems to be more of a "she got what she deserved" sort of tale, so crying for her wouldn't make sense.  If anything, I would say that he wants us to cry at the futility, vanity, and uselessness of pride, materialism, pretensions and greed.  The point of the tale is to indicate that greed and pride will always lead to your downfall, and will suck all of the joy out of your life.  So, Madame Loisel's materialism about getting the jewels, then her pride in not admitting that she lost them, led to the misery of her life.  The audience might cry at the seeming uselessness of the past ten years of her life as she worked off the debt, and how easily it might have been circumvented.  This is the same as any pride or greed, and most likely that is what the author wants us to make the connection to.

I hope that those thoughts help a bit; good luck!

charcunning eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't find it humorous or frightening, per se, but if I had to choose between those two, I'd say frightening.

I pick frightening because inside all of us is a Mdme. Loisel in that we all want others to find us beautiful and intriguing. We all want the finer things in life and we all want to be the center of attention. However, the difference between most of and Mdme. Loisel is that these thoughts don't drive our actions.

This tale is scary because it is about what happens when we let our deepest desires rule our behavior, and more importantly, it is about the negative consequences of being untruthful.

The irony in the story, I believe, adds to the frightening aspect of it. When we find out the truth at the end of the story, we gasp, we don't laugh. Lives are ruined for greed. Lives are ruined for lies.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Agreed.  I'd actually call it a tragedy in many ways.  The character, Madame Loisel, is not in a high place to begin with; however, she does fall from it.  We understand she did this to herself, but we also feel some sympathy and awe (pity and fear) for the position in which she finds herself.  Her fatal flaw, if you will, is her pride, of course. 

There is no humor, though there is irony.  Irony is sometimes humorous, of course, but it's not humorous here.  The frightening aspect of your question is closest to the awe/fear thing; however, we're less frightened than satisfied that she got what she deserved..which is tempered by the fact that she didn't die and that she's a better person for having experienced it.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are no elements of humor in the story, nor does the author ever assume a light or playful tone toward his characters. They are treated seriously and what happens to them is serious. In regard to the story being frightening, it does not instill physical fear, but it could be considered to be frightening in terms of human behavior. Two lives are largely wasted because of one false assumption: that the jewels in the necklace were genuine. Never was this assumption even noticed, much less questioned. How often do we go through our own lives making critical decisions based on false assumptions?

ajmchugh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't see "The Necklace" as humorous or frightening.  I think that many of the great tragedies (Greek tragedies, Shakespearean tragedies, etc.) elicit fear from audiences because they understand that even a person of honor and power is susceptible to a great and tragic end.  In "The Necklace," though, readers seldom feel sympathy for Mme. Loisel.  She is a spoiled, demanding woman who almost seems to deserve the life she gets after losing the necklace.  (We do, though, feel sympathy for her husband.) 


drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I’d never characterize “The Necklace” as humorous; rather, I’d describe it as invoking pathos before I’d call it funny. The supreme irony of the ending is the reason why this story is selected year after year by teachers of freshman high school English. It is difficult to find a better illustration of irony than de Maupassant’s short story.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think the author intends us to laugh. There is great irony in the story in that Mathilde's desire to look rich and prosperous led to her dire financial situation as they struggle to pay off the replacement necklace. However, she ended up being far richer as she appreciated more the less material things such as pride in setting and reaching a goal. 

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The Necklace

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