The Jewelry (or The False Gems)

by Guy de Maupassant

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What is the point of view in Guy De Maupassant's "The Jewelry" and why is it significant?

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The point of view here is third-person limited. This means that the narrator is not a participant in the events that take place, and they know the thoughts and feelings of only one character. In this case, that character is Monsieur Lantin. We learn, for example, that he "was unspeakably happy with [his wife]" and that she was so charming that he discovered, after six years of marriage, that "he loved his wife even more than during the first days of their honeymoon." We never hear of the thoughts and feelings of Madame Lantin, and, therefore, we are in great shock right alongside her widower when we learn that what seemed to be "imitation jewelry" (indeed, what her husband had always believed to be imitation jewelry) is, in fact, real and quite valuable. We do not expect this revelation, because he does not expect this revelation. Were we to know Madame Lantin's thoughts and feelings all this time, then there would be no mystery, no truth that must come out. However, because of the narrator's perspective, the story acquires a mystery that it would not otherwise have.

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This is a great question because it ties in with the profound biting irony of this great tale. The point of view is actually third person limited as the author chooses to zoom in on one character alone and narrate the tale from his perspective. The character chosen is Monsieur Lantin, who has the misfortune to lose his wife as she dies. However, the impact of this point of view is that we, like him, have to go through a process of piecing together what his wife was actually really like through the clues that we are given. The point of view then keeps us in the dark and forces us to re-assess our perspective and thoughts about Madame Lantin, her supposed simplicity and her mysterious ability to manage their income so well that they could afford treats.

As Monsieur Lantin realises that the jewels are not in fact fake, but real, and they were purchased for his wife by another man, he experiences the shock, shame and then the greed of having a large amount of disposable income. It is the choice of the point of view that enables us, the reader, to share with Monsieur Lantin's perspective as he goes on a voyage of discovery.

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