Are there any elements of foreshadowing in "The Necklace" that give hints about the tragic twist to the ending?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What foreshadowing there is in "The Necklace" is very subtle because Maupassant has intended that the narrative concludes with a startling ironic reversal.

After receiving the invitation to the reception at the Ministerial Mansion, Mathilde Loisel visits an old friend to ask her if she may borrow some jewelry to wear with her new gown. Among the jewelry her friend shows her, she finds a necklace that she likes. 

All at once she found, in a black satin box, a superb diamond necklace; and her pulse beat faster with longing. Her hands trembled as she took it up. Clasping it around her throat...she stood in ecstasy looking at her reflection.

She asks if she can borrow this necklace, and her friend replies, "Why, of course."

Readers may wonder why Madame Forestier so readily loans Madame Loisel this "diamond necklace" because the fact that the necklace is described as "diamond" misleads the readers from perceiving it to be costume jewelry. The only reason for readers to suspect the necklace's value is the quickness with which Madame Forestier loans the item to Mathilde. This is the only hint that the necklace may not be made of real diamonds.

Perhaps another example of foreshadowing is the contrast between the delight of Mathilde Loisel when she abandons herself to enjoyment at the Ministerial Ball and her emotions afterward when she returns home.

She danced madly, wildly, drunk with pleasure, giving no thought to anything in the triumph of her beauty, the pride of her success, in a kind of happy cloud composed of all the adulation, of all the admiring glances, of all the awakened longings, of a sense of complete victory.

Once Madame Loisel returns home, however, the fulfillment of "great reception halls . . . and small, stylish, scented sitting rooms" and the pleasure of being admired "[is] all over." This is, perhaps, a subtle hint of the future misfortune. Madame Loisel soon discovers that she has lost the necklace, and the lives of the Loisels become miserable as they struggle to pay for the real diamond necklace that they purchase as a replacement for the lost one. It is not until years later that Madame Loisel learns the truth and realizes the folly of her pride after her chance meeting with Madame Forestier.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Necklace" does not seem like the kind of story that would use foreshadowing, since anything of that nature would tend to detract from the truly shocking effect of the surprise ending. The Loisels and the reader are led to believe that the borrowed necklace is made of genuine diamonds. When Mme. Loisel first sees the necklace, Maupassant calls it "a superb diamond necklace." He is intentionally deceiving the reader here, but it is hard to see how he could do otherwise. He could hardly call it "what appeared to be a superb diamond necklace."

The only hint that the diamonds are fake can be detected in Mme. Forestier's reply to Mme. Loisel when she asks:

"Will you lend me this, only this?"

It would appear to the reader that she is asking to borrow the most expensive piece of jewelry in the whole collection. A necklace like that would cost at least $150,000 in present-day American dollars, possibly much more. Yet Mme. Forestier's reply might make an especially keen reader wonder. She replies:

"Why, yes, certainly."

The word "certainly" makes her reply seem to be expressing relief that she does not have to risk lending a truly valuable piece of jewelry, and also expressing relief that her friend says, "only this?"--meaning that she will not be asked to lend her several valuable items. Mme. Forestier knows the necklace is only worth about 500 francs. The word "certainly" also sounds a bit ironic. Mme. Forestier is somewhat amused by the fact that her friend thinks she is getting a fabulously expensive diamond necklace. It is as if Mme. Forestier is saying, "Why, yes," and then to herself, "if you're naive enough to think you're getting a real diamond necklace. The word "certainly" has many implications in this line of dialogue.

The fact that poor Mathilde Loisel actually believes she is wearing an exquisite diamond necklace at the ball enhances her enjoyment of the affair because it makes her feel even more beautiful than she is. This feeling shows in her face and in her posture, making her appear more alluring to all the men--most of whom, except for a sophisticated few, probably think the necklace is real too.

Maupassant's story depends heavily on the surprise ending. He not only does not hint that Mme. Loisel will find out she has ruined her life over a fake necklace, but he deliberately misleads the reader by calling the piece of fake jewelry "a superb diamond necklace." This might be described as the opposite of foreshadowing. (It might also be called "cheating.")

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team