Where is metaphor used in "The Necklace"?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A metaphor is a type of comparison, when you are using one thing to stand for something else.  There can be simple metaphors, such as a comparison within a sentence, and conceptual metaphors, where something has a bigger meaning.

For example, the necklace in this story is a metaphor for Mathilde’s pride.  Mathilde refused to go to the ball unless she had a necklace and dress worthy of her high opinion of herself.  This is why she borrowed a necklace from her friend. 

"It annoys me not to have a single piece of jewelry, not a single ornament, nothing to put on. I shall look poverty-stricken. I would almost rather not go at all."

In fact, she chose the flashiest one she could find.  Her friend guides her toward an appropriate and perfectly fine necklace, but she wants the flashiest one.  Once she has chosen that, she feels that she will stand out at the ball.

A metaphor can also be a figure of speech.  When Mathilde goes to the ball, her happiness is described with a metaphor.

She danced with rapture, with passion, intoxicated by pleasure, forgetting all in the triumph of her beauty, in the glory of her success, in a sort of cloud of happiness comprised of all this homage, admiration, these awakened desires and of that sense of triumph which is so sweet to woman's heart.

Clearly she is not in an actual cloud.  By comparing her happiness to a cloud, the author helps us picture how she is feeling.  Mathilde is happy because she is the most beautiful lady at the ball, and everyone is paying attention to her.  For the time being, she can forget her poverty.

Mathilde is poor.  Everything she wears at the ball is outside of her means.  She has to force her husband to use all of his savings on an expensive dress, and borrow the jewel from a rich friend.  None of this is part of her normal lifestyle.

When Mathilde loses the necklace, she loses her pride.  She has to replace the necklace, and this costs a fortune.  Her beauty and standard of living is reduced.  In the end, Mathilde’s pride cost her everything.  She wanted to be noticed, and she was, but the experience at the ball was not real because it was based on an illusion of who she was and what she could afford.  Everything about her was actually fake, including the necklace.