The Necklace Characters
The main characters in "The Necklace" are Mathilde Loisel, Monsieur Loisel, and Madame Forestier.
- Mathilde Loisel dreams of being rich and is self-conscious about her middle-class status. She borrows Madame Forestier's necklace to wear to a ball but loses it, then spends the next decade working to pay off the replacement, sacrificing her beauty and youth.
- Monsieur Loisel is Mathilde's husband and a government clerk. He procures the invitation to the ball for Mathilde and helps to work off the debt for the necklace.
- Madame Forestier is Mathilde's wealthy friend. She lends Mathilde the necklace and later pityingly reveals that it was a fake.
Mathilde Loisel is a dissatisfied woman, and this drives her conflict with herself and with others. She imagines living a more fantastical life than the one she was born into. She feels that there is a great discrepancy between the life she should be living based on her charm and beauty (which, based on textual evidence, is not imagined) and the life she must daily endure. Her home is so ordinary that it pains her. She dreams of a more magical life, one filled with men who adore her and conversations of “whispered gallantries which you listen to with a sphinx-like smile.” She longs for extravagance because extravagance is exciting and would be an escape from her mundane life.
It is important to consider Mathilde’s historical context. As a woman living in the nineteenth century, her options are limited. As she wasn’t born into wealth and didn’t marry into it either, there aren’t many options for improving her social standing. She doesn’t have children to occupy her time and isn’t even required to complete her own housework, thanks to the household servant. Mathilde doesn’t seem to have many friends, and it isn’t noted that she spends time entertaining in her home. Thus, she has a great deal of time on her hands and little to do to make constructive use of it. Considering her context, Mathilde’s frustrations are somewhat understandable.
Mathilde’s frustrations could be somewhat pardoned if not for her vanity. This sense of self-importance affects everyone around her. Surely the home she shares with her husband is a tense one because she “suffer[s] ceaselessly” in it. Surely the fact that she desires to be envied is woven into their conversations and decisions. Surely her friend Madame Forestier is frustrated when none of the jewelry she offers to Mathilde passes her inspection for elegance. None of this matters to Mathilde, who is singularly focused on being recognized for the charming and beautiful woman she is.
Mathilde undoubtedly recognizes the ball as the dream she’s always longed for. This is her moment to finally be recognized in the society she holds in such high regard. And Mathilde likely believes that if she can be successful, she will be welcomed into a world full of the “delicacies and all the luxuries” that will finally fulfill her.
Ultimately, it seems that Mathilde finds her sense of purpose in the hard work of paying back the debt she’s incurred. Mathilde surprisingly rises to the occasion of repayment “with heroism,” throwing herself into the “heavy housework” she has spent a lifetime avoiding. She scrubs, washes, and carries slop until the beauty she so treasured is a distant memory. While Mathilde would have never willingly traded her beauty for such lessons, she has grown in strength and resiliency as she has become a woman who no longer spends her life in angry inner turmoil. Indeed, she encounters Madame Forestier at the end of the story because she has taken a walk in the Champs Elysees to “refresh herself,” the tone connoting a rather peaceful acceptance of her station in life. Perhaps Mathilde’s hardships have brought character growth that would never have transpired otherwise.
From every indication, Monsieur Loisel is a dedicated husband. Although he is referred to in the...
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