What actions or speeches are used to bring out the character traits of Mathilde in "The Necklace"?Guy de Mauppassant's "The Necklace"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Necklace," Maupassant uses both direct and indirect characterization:


  • The author makes direct comments on the character of Mathilde in the exposition: "She was one of those pretty and charming girls, born, as if by an accident of fate, into a family of clerks....as unhappy as a woman who has come down in the world; for women have no family rank or social class."
  • When Mathilde is disastified with the appearance of her home, the author comments, "All these things, which another woman of her class would not even have noticed,..."


  • In her thoughts, Mathilde is discontent in her social setting:

She grieved incessantly, feeling that she had been born for the little niceties and luxureis of living.  She grieved over the shabbiness of her apartment, the dinginess of the little walls, the worn-out appearance of the chairs, the ugliness of the draperies....She would dream of great reception halls....

  • In her speech, Mathilde expresses her discontent with her position in life.  When her husband brings home an invitation to an evening reception, she is not delighted.  Instead, she says scornfully, "What good is that to me?  When he offers her the money he has saved for a rifle for a new dress, she does not even thank him.  Yet, when Mme Forestier lends her a necklace, she "threw her arms arund her friend, kissed her warmly, and fled with her treasure."  This kiss was obviously not for the friend, but a joyous reaction to being in the possession of such a beautiful material object.
  • In her actions, Mathilde indicates her selfishness as she ignores her husband at the reception, reveling instead in the attentions of the other men as her tired husband waits patiently for her in an armchair. After the necklace is lost, Mme. Loisel "plays her part with sudden heroism," Maupassant writes.  Again this is an indication that Mathilde values the loss of the necklace as more momentous than the relationship with her husband, for she does not so any gratitude toward him as he shares in the deprivation that they must endure for years as they repay the debt.  Also, it is noteworthy that she does not contact Mme. Forestier and report the loss.  Her false sense of pride will not allow her to do this.  That she continues to have a false sense of values is indicated in the denouement of the story when Mme. Loisel encounters Mme. Forestier in the park year later and boasts of having bought a necklace so much alike that Mme. Forestier has not noticed:

'Do you remember that diamond necklace you loaned me to wear...?  we've been paying for it for ten years now...'

Mme Forestier stopped short. 'You mean to say you bought a diamond necklace to replace mine?'

And she {Mathilde] smiled with proud and simple joy

To the end, Mme. Loisel values only what is false as indicated in her thoughts, speech, and actions.