What is the theme of the short story "The Necklace"? And what three points can come from the theme?I am trying to write a paper

Expert Answers
Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Concerning the theme of "The Necklace," several ideas emerge during the course of the story.  The story centers around Mathilde, the character who loses the necklace.  Questions arise when one tries to analyze her:

  • Is she spoiled and self-centered or a frustrated artist?
  • Is her manipulation of her husband a negative character trait or the only way a woman in her position and society can get what she wants?
  • Is her decision to not tell her friend that she lost the necklace, and instead downsize her home, go to work, etc., a stupid decision or a noble decision?
  • Do your answers to the above questions reveal that you are judging Mathilde, or understanding her?  If you are judging, is that the proper role of a reader?

In general, another issue that arises deals with economics.  If Mathilde were wealthier, the possibility that the jewelry was costume jewelry would have occurred to her.  Only a person who has never owned jewelry of any value could be so ignorant of it.

Also, feminist issues have already been briefly alluded to above, but merit mentioning as a separate issue.  Mathilde appears to have little earning power.  Like in so many societies, her means of achieving upward mobility, or in this case economic salvation, are limited.  She is fawned over by married and unmarried men alike (the men in the story are pigs).  It appears that a woman in her world has only her appearance and charm as means to achieve goals.

Those are some of the ideas revealed in the story.  Your analysis of these will determine what you want to concentrate on in your essay, as well as your main points.

epollock | Student


The Necklace by Guy De Maupassant is a classic short story. Full of irony, The speaker states that small things save or destroy people (paragraph 105). The story bears out the idea, for any number of things could be cited as the cause of the disaster, none of them by themselves of major significance: (a) the invitation, (b) the new dress, (c) the borrowing of the necklace, (d) the hurrying away from the party (paragraphs 55–60), (e) the failure of Jeanne to tell Mathilde that the necklace is only a cheap imitation. Whether the story emphasizes Fate or chance, one should probably emphasize chance, for the idea of Fate implies a more systematic pattern of opposition than the circumstances working against Mathilde.

Maupassant also illustrates a view that might be described as "economic determinism" in the story. Maupassant introduces the idea of "the horrible life of the needy" in paragraph 98, and his description of what happens to Mathilde under these circumstances may be construed as an illustration of economic determinism. In addition, the fact that Jeanne Forrestier is "always youthful, always beautiful, always attractive" can be read the same way inasmuch as Jeanne is "rich" (paragraph 6). The clear contrast, together with Maupassant’s paragraph about "What would life have been like if she had not lost that necklace?" (paragraph 105), indicates that in this story at least Maupassant makes a connection between the economic condition of people and their happiness and character fulfillment. 

On balance, Mathilde, the protagonist, is not negative, for in paragraphs 99–104, Maupassant describes the massive effort that she exerts to help pay the debt. The heroism that the speaker attributes to her suggests that readers, finally, are justified in admiring her. The quality of character that is a first cause of the misfortune, however, is her refusal to accept the reality of her genteel poverty and her desire to use the borrowed necklace to appear prosperous.

Though the conversations of Mathilde and Loisel in paragraphs 8–38 indicate that Mathilde pressures and manipulates Loisel, she seems to be less interested in him and in his needs than in her own. Loisel wants to please Mathilde, but is unable to deal with her on a personal level. More to attain his own composure than to give her pleasure, he buys her the dress and suggests that she borrow the jewels. There is no evidence in the story that the two have anything more than a perfunctory marital relationship.

Also, her daydreams are not all that unusual. It is unlikely that Maupassant contrived the misfortune as a deserved punishment, particularly because Mathilde’s good qualities are brought out as the story progresses. Also, the unexpected and ironic ending indicates that the story is less concerned with showing how Mathilde gets her comeuppance than with evoking regret along with surprise. One might still claim, however, that Mathilde deserves at least some shock of grim reality, but certainly not the disaster that occurs. Thus Maupassant succeeds in directing sympathy toward Mathilde, together with whatever criticism she deserves because of her daydreams. 

mkcapen1 | Student

When the author wrote the story "The Necklace" it was under the intent to show how people cause their own misery.  The theme evolves around Mme. Loisel and her desire for material things.  She is unsatisfied with the things that she has and wants better.  Her husband surprises her with an invitation to an elegant affair.

Mme. Loisel borrows a necklace from her friend and accidentally loses it.  She and her husband borrow money and replace it without telling her friend.  They have to work very hard for ten years to pay it off.  Their life ahs been hardened by the extra work and they both have aged from it.

One point that can be made is that Madam should have lived within her means and not tired to live beyond her means.

A second point is that honesty would have spared them years of grief and hard work.

The third point is that by trying to be something they were not they became less of what they had been to begin with.