What are four quotes from Madame Loisel showing how selfish and insecure she is in "The Necklace"?

Four quotes from Madame Loisel in “The Necklace” which show how selfish and insecure she is occur during the first half of the story. She says them all before she and her husband attend a government official’s party. These four quotes reflect her reactions to the party invitation, her lack of a suitable dress, and the fact that she has no appropriate jewelry.

Expert Answers

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

During “The Necklace,” protagonist Madame Mathilde Loisel—a middle-class housewife who aspires to a higher class—is unhappy with her life, married to a lowly government clerk. Madame Loisel believes that she has been unjustly assigned to her social station and is “entitled to all the delicacies and luxuries of life.” Four specific quotes spoken by Madame Loisel illustrate how selfish and insecure she truly is.

First, when her husband happily presents her with an invitation to a dinner party hosted by the Minister of Education, she throws it down like a petulant child and snaps, “What do you want me to do with that?” Even after hearing how much trouble he has taken in order to secure this exclusive invitation with high-ranking officials, she does not even acknowledge his efforts or thank him; instead, all she can do is think only of herself to ask angrily and impatiently, “And what do you expect me to wear if I go?” Madame Loisel plays the victim and egotistically expects her husband to solve her problem for her!

Second, after he suggests the dress that she normally wears to the theater, Madame Loisel weeps,

Only I have no dress and so I can't go to this party. Give your invitation to a friend whose wife has better clothes than I do.

Too ungrateful to acknowledge the dress she already owns, she selfishly implies that she deserves “better clothes” or a newer, fancier dress. Also, her retort that her husband give the invitation to someone else “whose wife has better clothes than I do” reveals her insecurity. Madame Loisel believes that others look down on her and that only a lady with "better" clothes deserves to attend the party. Finally, she selfishly denies her husband his own joy; she just wants him to give away the invitation and thus not attend the party himself. Ultimately, she manipulates him into giving her money to purchase a beautiful dress in order to appear wealthier at the party.

Third, despite attaining a new four hundred-franc dress (which her husband bought with money he was saving to buy himself a gun and take a well-deserved hunting trip), she still is unsatisfied. Madame Loisel laments,

I'm upset that I have no jewels, not a single stone to wear. I will look cheap. I would almost rather not go to the party.

Like a spoiled child, she cannot be satisfied by or appreciate what she already has; the expensive dress is not enough for her. Without jewels to adorn her appearance further, she fears looking “cheap.” Again, her social insecurity rears its ugly head; “cheap” implies not only a lack of money but also a lack of respect. Madame Loisel believes that she is elegant and deserves such recognition from others.

Fourth, she rejects her husband’s suggestion that she don flowers instead of jewelry with

No; there is nothing more humiliating than looking poor in the middle of a lot of rich women.

She condescendingly views flowers—understated and natural—as poor substitutes to flashy (and, as she learns at the end, fake) jewels. Madame Loisel’s feeling of humiliation (created by her contrast to wealthier women at the party) demonstrates her insecurity and lack of confidence in her real identity.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team