What is the setting for "The Necklace"?

The setting of "The Necklace" is late-nineteenth-century Paris. Specific settings include Madame Loisel's apartment, her friend Madame Forestier's home, the ball, streets, and the detailed scenes created by Madame Loisel's imagination.

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The setting of Guy de Maupassant's short story "The Necklace" is the city of Paris in the mid-1880s to the mid-1890s. This time was part of the Belle Époque, the time period in which de Maupassant wrote the story.

The Belle Époque is a period in French history from about 1880 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914 that is considered a period of peace and prosperity, important developments in technology and science, and cultural, literary, and artistic innovations. The Belle Époque is also a time of a wide disparity in the quality of life between the upper classes and nouveaux riches, represented in "The Necklace" by the wealthy Madame Forestier, and the poorer and lower classes, represented by Mathilde Loisel and her civil-servant husband.

The dissatisfied, socially marginalized Mathilde Loisel lives in a shabby, inelegant, walk-up apartment in the disreputable, working-class Pigalle section of Paris on Rue des Martyrs, a steep, narrow street of shops and bars which begins at the church of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette and ends at the top of the hill in the village of Montmartre near the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur.

Mathilde's financial situation is such that when she and her husband are invited to a ball at the Ministry of Education where Monsieur Loisel is employed as a "little clerk," Mathilde must ask to borrow a necklace from her childhood friend, Madame Forestier. The loss of the necklace is central to the plot of "The Necklace."

An early part of the story of "The Necklace" is set in Mathilde's imagination, far away from the reality of her tedious daily life, where she envisions herself living in a luxurious home with "silent antechambers hung with Oriental tapestry," "long reception halls hung with ancient silk," "little coquettish perfumed reception rooms," and a dining room where delicious dishes of "the pink meat of a trout or the wings of a quail" are served "on marvelous plates." In her imagination, Mathilde sees herself envied and charming, a woman "to be sought after."

Nevertheless, de Maupassant imparts a strong sense of verisimilitude to "The Necklace" by setting events in the story in actual locations in Paris, including the Rue des Martyrs, where the Loisel apartment is located, the river Seine that runs through the city, jewelry shops near the Palais Royal where Mathilde and her husband search for a necklace to replace the one she lost, and the Champs-Elysées, where Mathilde meets Madame Forestier ten years after the pivotal and ironic events of the story occur.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 19, 2021
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The setting of “The Necklace” is late-nineteenth-century Paris, a time when the gap between rich and poor was widening and large sections of the French middle classes felt increasingly insecure about their condition in life.

Such insecurities are much in evidence in the character of Mathilde, or Madame Loisel. Despite enjoying a decent, respectable, middle-class lifestyle, she's still profoundly unsatisfied with her lot. She has pretensions of aristocratic lineage, a belief that there are centuries of noble blood sloshing around her veins. There's no evidence that any of this is true, of course, but the fantasy still retains a powerful hold on Mathilde's imagination all the same.

Mathilde's delusions of grandeur lead her to make the fateful decision to borrow what she believes to be an expensive necklace to wear to the Education Ministry ball. This glittering social occasion will bring together members of the bourgeoisie like Mathilde and her husband and those of more elevated lineage.

As is often the case in his short stories, de Maupassant paints an extremely accurate picture of late-nineteenth-century Paris and how—despite the rapid development of industrial capitalism, with the considerable political and economic power it generated for the bourgeoisie—so many members of that class were desperately keen to ape the manners and customs of the old aristocracy.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 19, 2021
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The story takes place in late-nineteenth-century Paris. As it is told from Madame Loisel's point of view, the reader goes where she goes and sees what she sees.

One setting is her own apartment, which she disdains as not good enough because of its "wretched ... walls" and "worn out chairs." Another setting is her friend Madame Forestier's home, where Mathilde goes to borrow a necklace for the grand party she is to attend. We learn little about this setting, except that it contains a mirrored wardrobe where Mathilde can admire herself wearing the diamond necklace.

Later, we move to the ball, where Mathilde herself is the center of her own attention. After the tragic loss of the necklace, settings move beyond interiors to Madame Loisel bargaining for every last penny at the markets and stalls of Paris, as well as to Mathilde running into Madame Forestier and her child on a major boulevard in Paris, the Champs-Elysées.

Beyond these literal settings, it is difficult to ignore the settings of Madame Loisel's imagination. At the beginning of story, fueled by the romance novels she reads, Madame Loisel imagines lush and luxurious chambers much more desirable than her own apartment. These are described with a minute detail very different from the quick brushstrokes she applies to reality. This emphasis on her imagination shows the extent to which, at least in the beginning, Mathilde lives inside her head.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 19, 2021
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Guy de Maupassant's story "The Necklace" was originally published in the French newspaper Le Gaulois in February 1884. It is set in Paris, in the "contemporary" period of the late nineteenth century. Perhaps the most important element of its setting is socioeconomic. Mathilde Loisel is an aspiring member of the bourgeoisie, who was educated at a school with wealthier children. She aspires to be part of the upper bourgeois class, but due to her lack of dowry, she is married to a man who is a junior bureaucrat. That means that although his income is adequate for the necessities of life, it will not purchase the luxuries she desires.

The first locale of the story is the Loisel apartment, which is plainly furnished, but adequate to their needs. We briefly see the luxurious home of Mathilde's school friend. The next place we encounter is the luxurious ballroom where Mathilde enjoys an evening of social success and the taxi cab they take back to their apartment. After the loss of the necklace, the couple moves to a cheaper apartment. The final scene is a chance encounter on the Champs-Elysees, a fashionable boulevard in Paris.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 19, 2021
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