The Jewelry (or The False Gems)

by Guy de Maupassant

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What is the theme of "The Jewelry" and when does the climax occur?  

One theme that emerges in "The Jewelry" is the unreliable nature of human perception. Following the death of his wife, Monsieur Lantin learns that her virtuous nature has been deceiving. The climax occurs when Monsieur Lantin is told that his wife's imitation jewels are, in fact, authentic and expensive.

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One theme that is evident in "The Jewelry" is the fallibility of human perception. Monsieur Lantin believes that his wife is devoted to him. She seems to be the "perfect example of the virtuous woman to whom every sensible young man dreams of entrusting his life." The rest of the...

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One theme that is evident in "The Jewelry" is the fallibility of human perception. Monsieur Lantin believes that his wife is devoted to him. She seems to be the "perfect example of the virtuous woman to whom every sensible young man dreams of entrusting his life." The rest of the town agrees; "everybody sang her praises."

Monsieur Lantin marries this beautiful girl and is "incredibly happy with her." She showers him with great attention, and her charms do not fade with time. He is always amazed at how far his wife can stretch his meager salary to provide everything they need for their home and credits her keen economic skills.

His wife maintains a delight for imitation jewelry. She wears it to the theater and admires her box of cheap baubles at home. When her husband scoffs at her silly admirations, she tells him, "Aren't they beautifully made? Anyone would swear they are real."

When she suddenly dies, Monsieur Lantin realizes that the gems were not imitations but authentic. The only way his wife could have afforded such expensive jewelry is that she was not virtuous after all and has been having at least one affair with an incredibly wealthy man who is able to buy her the things that she wants.

Monsieur Lantin's perceptions have failed him. He incorrectly ascertained the authenticity of the jewelry. He incorrectly ascertained the virtuous nature of his wife. And in the end, he incorrectly ascertains the ability of his second wife to make him happy. Human perceptions can fail, and sometimes we see what we want to see—which sometimes is not the truth.

The climax of this story is when Monsieur Lantin tries to sell his wife's imitation jewelry and learns that it is completely authentic, which forces him to face the reality of their marriage and his wife's character.

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Aside from other themes that can be extrapolated from the story "The Jewelry" (also known as "The False Gems") by Guy de Maupassant, one of the key topics is "authenticity."  What is real? What is not? What is fantasy? What is reality?

The theme of authenticity is evident in several aspects of the story. First, look at Mr. Lantin’s wife. Described as

a perfect type of the virtuous woman in whose hands every sensible young man dreams of one day entrusting his happiness,

 she is further seen as “angelic,” “modest,” “pure” and “lovely.” She was praised by everyone and was the object of her husband’s deepest affection. We learn that this is just a façade. Mrs. Lantin is anything but angelic, much less virtuous, pure, or modest. She was having an affair and securing expensive jewelry through the generosity of whoever she was seeing. She was also quite fond of the expensive jewels. Fond enough to admire the pieces openly, even showing them to her husband, and lying about them

 She would roll the pearl necklaces around her fingers, and hold up the bright gems for her husband's admiration, gently coaxing him: "Look! are they not lovely? One would swear they were real.

This shows that the woman had expensive taste, so she was not modest. She also had a way to get to what she wanted by cheating on her husband, and getting gifts from other men. This makes her less than virtuous. On top of that, she simply lies about the whole thing and makes her husband think that these are imitation pieces; that she is considerate enough not to want the real thing.  Her jewels may not be fake, but she certainly is.

The jewels are also part of the theme of authenticity because the fact that they are real is what ultimately shows Mrs. Lantin for who she really is.  After she dies, Mr. Lantin has no choice but to try and sell what he believes to be fake jewels. It is then when he realizes that his marriage was a farce. Discovering the authenticity of the jewels brought out the reality of the fakery of the marriage, and the cheating of Mrs. Lantin. This event also marks the climax of the story, for everything that happens afterwards starts the dénouement of the action and the eventual end of the story.

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The theme that I would say is most relevant is the idea that things are not always what they seem, second, reality is perception.  M. Lantin believes that the jewels are fake, his wife never tells him that they are real, she can't he did not buy them for her, and she could not afford to buy them herself. 

He believes that she loves him and is a faithful wife.  When in fact, she must have had an affair with a wealthy man during their marriage, the person who bought the gems.

The turning point in the story, or the climax comes when M. Lantin discovers that the gems are real.  His life is dramatically changed once he sells the jewels.  He becomes very wealthy.

The irony in this story is verbal irony, because M. Lantin's wife knows that the jewels are real. She tells him:

"What can I do? I am so fond of jewelry. It is my only weakness. We cannot change our natures." Then she would roll the pearl necklaces around her fingers, and hold up the bright gems for her husband's admiration, gently coaxing him:"Look! are they not lovely? One would swear they were real." (de Maupassant)

The other form of irony is situational irony.  When the outcome is different than expected.  M. Lantin believes that the gems are false, and then discovers to his surprise that they are real. 

When he marries his second wife, he expects that she will make him happy because of her virtue, the opposite happens, he is miserable.

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