What is the positive and the negative in "The Necklace"?

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pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Necklace, a short story about a woman who believes that her simple, humble life has no value and craves to be part  of the glamorous world of the rich, is taught a valuable lesson because of the necklace that she borrows.

Madame Loisel and her husband are invited to a fancy party, she buys an expensive dress but is still not satisfied with her appearance so she borrows a diamond necklace for the evening from a rich friend, Madame Forrestier.

During the course of the evening Madame Loisel has a wonderful time, dancing and talking with the kind of people she has always longed to be among.  When the evening is over, her husband longs to go home, he tries to help her into her tattered working-class coat, but she refuses to allow her evening as Cinderella to be marked by her new rich friends seeing her in an old coat, so she pushes it away.

While trying to find a cab to return home, the Loisels must walk and walk in order to secure an available cab.  When they get home, she discovers that the necklace is missing.

After the Loisels find out that the necklace is missing, their lives are changed forever.  The positive lesson comes through the fact that Madame Loisel must work very hard to help earn money to pay back the loan that they took out to buy a replacement necklace.  She does work very hard, as does her poor husband, and as a result of the hard physical work, she ages, her skin, her hair all show the effects of hard work. She looks older than she really is.

Having returned the new necklace to Madame Forrestier years before, she has not seen her rich friend in a long time until she encounters her one day in the park.  Madame Forrestier can barely recognize Madame Loisel, who has aged and changed, while Madame Forrestier has not.  Meeting her, Madame Loisel gets the shock of her life, finding out that the necklace that she had borrowed all those years before was actually fake.  The necklace the the Loisels mortaged their lives to buy was real diamonds, Madame Forrestier did not even realize that she was given a real diamond necklace.

So the lesson, both positive and negative, here is that if you place material possessions above everything else in your life, your existence will be shallow and empty.

Worshipping material possessions, as Madame Loisel had done in the past, proves to be the worship of a false god, the necklace that mattered so much to her to enhance her appearance for her night on the town, turned her life into a struggle to survive.

"Although she does not have a lot of money, Madame Loisel may be justly characterized as greedy. Her life is comfortable enough to afford one servant, but she wishes for several. She has plenty of food, but she dreams of "delicate meals." Her husband can barely afford to buy her a ball gown, but she insists on having jewelry to go with it. When she first sees her friend's diamond necklace, "her heart [beats] covetously."


Therefore, if you enslave yourself in the pursuit of material possessions, as Madame Loisel did, your life will be defined by what you have or in Madame Loisel's case by what you don't have, never being happy or satisfied always feeling deprived, and longing for something that you cannot have.