Is the conflict in "The Necklace" internal or external?

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

De Maupassant's short story has both internal and external conflicts. The major conflict is most certainly internal because Mathilde Loisel chafes against her dull existence as the wife of a government bureaucrat. She longs for the life of the courtesan with material luxuries and an exciting lifestyle. Her afternoon musings, however, come crashing down after she loses an expensive necklace she had borrowed from a wealthy friend so that, for just one night, she could live her dream. Because of the class gulf between the Loisels and Madame Forestier, the couple can think of nothing else to do but replace the jewelry at great cost to them. Mathilde's dull, but comfortable life (after all, she had a maid), abruptly ends and she is thrust into poverty, leading "the horrible life the needy live."

The loss of the necklace precipitates the story's external conflict. Mathilde and her husband, plunged into poverty, have to work off the debt and its interest:

She learned to do the heavy housework, to perform the hateful duties of cooking. She washed dishes, wearing down her shell pink nails scouring the grease from pots and pans . . . Her husband labored evenings to balance a tradesman's accounts, and at night, often, he copied documents at five sous a page.

Amazingly, Mathilde seems to live up to the challenge. De Maupassant notes that she "played her part, however, with sudden heroism." After ten years the debt is completely paid, providing Mathilde with a sense of pride. Unfortunately, this simple pride is spoiled when Madame Forestier admits that her necklace was "fake" and only worth a fraction of what the Loisels paid for its replacement.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Madame Loisel is ultimately the catalyst that created both the internal and external conflict in the story.

Her obsession with society life, luxury, and her fixation to pity herself as someone who is deserving of much more than what she already has is how she creates the internal conflict.

The loss of the diamond necklace came as a result of that internal conflict, because she lost it during a moment of bliss where she "lost herself" in the moment. Had she not harbored this preocupation with luxury and society she would have had more decorum and self control during the activity.

Externally,the replacement of the necklace would come as a consequence of the internal conflict. However, if you look deeper, it was all caused mostly from the "inside" as a chain of sad events.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my opinion, the main conflict in this story is internal -- it is a conflict within Madame Loisel herself.  She feels that she was born in circumstances that are not as good as she deserves.

The central problem in the story (the ability to pay for the lost necklace) is caused by the conflict that I just mentioned.  Madame Loisel wants to have the finer things in life.  Unfortunately, she is not rich enough to afford them.

Therefore, the major conflict is internal -- it is a conflict between Madame Loisel's desire for material things and her circumstances.

mkcapen1 | Student

 The first conflict is the woman's, Matilda,  feelings of inadequacy as she is not married into the life that she feels would award her the beautiful things she wants.  This is an internal conflict.

The external conflict arises after she has worn the necklace.  She has to find a way to replace the lost necklace.  She believes it to be very valuable and can not figure out what she should do.  This led to her husband using all his savings from an inheritance and then having to borrow the rest of the sum.  They had to work desperately hard for ten years to pay it all back.

Matilda has changed her life and all because she could not accept that she had once had a better life.