The Necklace Questions and Answers

Guy de Maupassant

Read real teacher answers to our most interesting The Necklace questions.

What was Mathilde Loisel's flaw?

Expectations of this world
And the people in it,
Are surely the sources
Of our greatest misery. 
The Uddhava Gita #3

If Mathilde Loisel had a tragic flaw, it was the same flaw that most of us suffer from. She wanted to be admired by other people. She had her own natural charm and beauty, but that was insufficient. She needed a new dress for the ball, and once she had the dress she needed some jewelry. After she borrowed the necklace from her wealthy friend, she felt satisfied with her appearance and she was a great success at the ball. She got the admiration of all the men and the envy of all the women, which were just what she wanted. But she had to pay a terrible price for an illusion.

Was Mathilde Loisel a success?

Many people exert themselves to achieve admiration through learning to do something impressive, such as becoming successful businessmen, inventors, artists, actors, musicians, daredevils, or whatever. We Mathilde Loisel's chief ambition in life was to be adequately admired for her beauty, grace, and charm. For one night she finds perfect satisfaction of that ambition.

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.

If she hadn't lost the borrowed necklace she might have been satisfied with her one night of being Cinderella. But our ambitions often lead us into troubles and disappointment.

How does the reader identify with the Loisels?

The reader really begins to identify with the Loisels when Mathilde discovers that she has lost the borrowed diamond necklace.

She removed her wraps before the glass so as to see herself once more in all her glory. But suddenly she uttered a cry. She no longer had the necklace around her neck!

This is the way these things happen. Everyone has had the experience of losing something of value and suddenly discovering that it is gone. It brings out a number of emotions--fear, disbelief, bewilderment, shock, dismay, maybe even panic. The Loisels go through a whole spectrum of familiar thoughts, feelings, questions, speculations, and apprehensions, all of which are perfectly depicted by Maupassant. No doubt, like most of us, they keep looking in the same places, hoping that somehow the missing item will be there even though it obviously wasn't there before.

"You're sure you had it on when you left the ball?" he asked.
"Yes, I felt it in the vestibule of the minister's house."
"But if you had lost it in the street we should have heard it fall. It must be in the cab."
"Yes, probably. Did you take his number?"
"No. And you--didn't you notice it?"
"No."
They looked, thunderstruck, at each other. At last Loisel put on his clothes.
"I shall go back on foot," said he, "over the whole route, to see whether I can find it."

And the husband, although he must have already been exhausted, goes out on a desperate quest, knowing that his chances of finding a diamond necklace in the streets of Paris are practically nil. But he has to do something. He is hoping for a miracle. Meanwhile his wife stays behind, hoping against hope that her husband will miraculously return with the precious necklace. We too are hoping against hope that M. Loisel will find the lost necklace because we have been in a similar situation, although most of us have never lost anything as expensive as a diamond necklace.

Maupassant was a realist. The necklace was never found--at least by the Loisels. Perhaps some someone walking along in the dark had suddenly had their wildest dreams come true when they saw a diamond necklace lying right at their feet. When Cinderella loses her glass slipper at the ball, she not only gets the slipper back but gets the handsome prince along with it. That sort of thing never happens in a story by Maupassant.

When and where was this story published?

Guy de Maupassant's story, "La Parure" was first published in La Gaulois, a French newspaper, on 17 February 1884. The title means a matching set of jewelry in French and is usually translated into English as "The Necklace" or "The Diamond Necklace." It has been widely republished, translated into several languages, and adapted to film. The setting is contemporary to its date of publication, i.e. late nineteenth century France.