The Necklace Theme

What is the moral lesson of "The Necklace?"

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The moral of Guy de Maupassant's short story, "The Necklace," is to be happy with what you have.

Throughout the story, Mathilde Loisel is unsatisfied with her life. Readers do not have to look far to support this stand. The first paragraph defines her as a woman who "let herself be married to a little clerk of the Ministry of Public Instruction." Not only is this stated, the following paragraph blatantly states her unhappiness:

She dressed plainly because she could not dress well, but she was unhappy as if she had really fallen from a higher station; since with women there is neither caste nor rank, for beauty, grace and charm take the place of family and birth.

If readers are still unaware of Mathilde's unhappiness, the following line further addresses her distaste for her life.

Mathilde suffered ceaselessly, feeling herself born to enjoy all delicacies and all luxuries. She was distressed at the poverty of her dwelling, at the bareness of the walls, at the shabby chairs, the ugliness of the curtains. All those things, of which another woman of her rank would never even have been conscious, tortured her and made her angry.

That being said, Mathlide's story allows readers to understand the importance of accepting what one has and being happy with it.

Given Mathilde's unhappiness, her husband is able to procure an invitation to a party. To her husband's surprise, she is not at all pleased. Instead,she states that she cannot go given her lack of a dress. Stil wishing to make his wife happy, M. Loisel gives Mathilde 400 francs to purchase a dress. After buying the dress, Mathilde is still not happy--she lacks jewelry.  Upon her husband's suggestion, Mathilde asks a friend to borrow a necklace.

Mathilde is the "belle of the ball." Everyone wishes to be introduced to her and dance with her. Unfortunately, at the end of the night, Mathilde comes to discover that she has lost the necklace.

In order to replace the necklace, Mathilde and her husband must work for tens years to pay off the debt (34,000 francs). At the end of the story, Mathilde has aged and is unrecognizable. By chance, she comes across the friend who loaned he the necklace. Mathilde admits that she had lost the necklace,but replaced it. She also tells Madame Forestier (the friend) that she has spent the last ten years repaying the loans to replace the necklace. Forestier tells Mathilde that the necklace was paste,not real diamonds. Essentially, Mathilde and her husband worked for 10 years to replace a 500 franc necklace.

Therefore, given that Mathilde's problems came to exist because of her displeasure for her life, the moral of the story explains to readers the importance of accepting what one has in life--and being happy with it.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that the moral lesson of "The Necklace" is that deception is often a mistake which has bad results for the deceiver. Mathilde wishes to deceive the people attending the ball by making them think she has a higher social status than is actually the case. The borrowed necklace helps her to do this. Men want to dance with her, not only because she is young and beautiful, but because they think she must be a member of the aristocracy. But her worst mistake is trying to deceive Mme. Forestier by telling her she is having the clasp repaired and then substituting a real diamond necklace for the one she borrowed without knowing it was a fake. Many readers have expressed the feeling that Mathilde should have simply told the plain truth, that she lost the borrowed necklace. Mark Twain once said: "When in doubt, tell the truth." There are many similar wise sayings, such as "Honesty is the best policy." And "Honesty is the best policy" might stand as the moral for Maupassant's story. Sir Walter Scott wrote: "Oh, what a tangled web we weave When first we practice to deceive!" And the Loisels did indeed weave a tangled web for themselves. If Mathilde Loisel had simply gone to her friend and told her the truth, Mme. Forestier would have explained that the necklace was made of fake jewels. Mathilde's husband could have paid five hundred francs immediately, and that would have been the end of the matter. The whole story revolves around the fact that the Loisels, for whatever reason, are reluctant to confess the simple truth. Even if the necklace had been made of genuine diamonds, they could have made some arrangement to pay Mme. Forestier for it on much easier terms then they got themselves entangled in, let us say a thousand francs a month for thirty-six months without interest. That would have destroyed the relationship between the two women, but it didn't amount to much anyway. Even if Mme. Forestier suspected that the Loisels had really plotted to steal the necklace, she could hardly complain when they offered to pay her back in installments. Mathilde is not to be blamed for wanting to go to a fancy ball or for losing the necklace, but she is to be blamed for wanting to deceive her friend. When she looks back over her past life, she will not regret her Cinderella triumph at the minister's ball, but she will certainly most bitterly regret her deception.