Who is the protagonist in "The Necklace"?
The protagonist (from the Greek word for “first actor” or “first contender” as the main character around whom the work centers. We need not like or admire the protagonist; in fact, the character might be selfish, wicked, or unethical. The protagonist need not appear as a “hero” or “heroine” with all the nobility those words connote. In de Maupassant’s story “The Necklace,” the “she” whom we meet without a name in the opening paragraphs, who turns out to be Mathilde, is the protagonist. We might not like her very much at the beginning of the story, but as it develops, we feel empathy for her plight, and share her difficulties when she spends all of the money on replacing the necklace. The final irony causes us to feel surprise and dismay.
Madame Loisel is the protagonist who wants so badly to become a member of upper-class society. She feels she's "born for every delicacy and luxury" that the life of the upper class can offer her. She believes her happiness lies in the superficial trappings of wealth, such as a large house and beautiful clothes and jewelry. She borrows a necklace to wear to the ball she's invited to, and in a Cinderella-like ending, loses the necklace running from the ball. She can't tell her friend that she lost it and ends up living a hard life of poverty trying to recover the cost of the necklace. This is ironic because she never learns the necklace was a fake, and she spends her whole life in poverty to pay for a cheap bauble.