The Necklace Additional Summary

Guy de Maupassant

Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Mathilde Loisel is miserable as the wife of a middle-class Parisian clerk. She suffers constantly from what she views as a life of poverty. Although her husband’s income from his position as a clerk at the Ministry of Public Instructions sufficiently meets the couple’s needs, Mathilde dreams of attending the local salons, which host intimate gatherings of the upper class. She assumes airs at the dinner table, fantasizing that she is eating a higher quality of food and imagining herself dining with the wealthy. Mathilde focuses on her lack of jewels and fine clothing rather than on enjoying her life. She is jealous of one acquaintance in particular with whom she attended convent school, Madame Forestier, who has made a good marriage to a wealthy man.

Thinking Mathilde will be pleased, Monsieur Loisel brings her an invitation to a ball at the Palace of the Ministry. Mathilde surprises him by throwing down the invitation. Because Mathilde lacks a beautiful gown and jewels, she does not feel she can attend the ball. Monsieur Loisel reluctantly agrees to finance the purchase of a four-hundred-franc gown, understanding that he must sacrifice a planned hunting vacation with friends to do so. Mathilde buys the dress but complains that she has no jewels. Monsieur Loisel suggests that she visit her friend Madame Forestier and ask to borrow some jewelry. For once, Mathilde is pleased by a suggestion made by her husband.

Madame Forestier offers Mathilde the choice of her jewels. Mathilde selects a superb diamond necklace from a black satin box. She feels euphoric when she tries it on. When Madame Forestier immediately agrees to let her borrow the necklace, Mathilde kisses her in gratitude.

At the ball, Mathilde’s beauty attracts much attention. She is ecstatic when many men ask her name. She dances with all of the attachés from the cabinet and is even noticed by the minister. Intoxicated with pleasure and passion, Mathilde exists for a time in a fantasy haze. She believes she has at last succeeded in her quest to excel in high society.

Monsieur Loisel finds a room in which to sleep while Mathilde enjoys dancing and socializing. At 4:00 a.m., she is ready to leave. As Monsieur Loisel places her everyday wrap over his wife’s shoulders, it contrasts so much with her...

(The entire section is 955 words.)

Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

What makes Maupassant’s famous story “The Necklace” so popular is not merely the ironic shock that the reader feels at the end when Madame Loisel discovers that she has worked long and hard to pay for a worthless bit of paste, but rather the more pervasive irony that underlies the entire story and makes it a classic exploration on the difference between surface flash and hidden value.

The story begins with a pretty young girl who thinks she is really a lady and feels that she needs only the external trappings of her true status. Although she is married to a simple clerk, she acts as though she has fallen from her proper station; she feels that she was born for luxuries but must endure poverty. Determined to make the best of an opportunity when she and her husband are invited to an elegant party, she borrows a necklace from an acquaintance to impress those not easily impressed and, like Cinderella at the ball, has all of her desires fulfilled as she is transported into the fairy-tale world about which she has dreamed. All of this comes crashing down to reality, however, when she reaches home and discovers that the necklace is missing. Her husband exhausts his meager inheritance and then borrows the rest, mortgaging their life away to buy a replacement for the necklace.

Now that Madame Loisel knows true poverty, she shows herself to be made of something more valuable than her petty desires for surface flash have suggested. With heroism and pride, she shoulders her responsibility with her husband and for ten years does brutal manual labor until she has paid for the necklace. When the reader discovers that the necklace was made of paste, it is a momentary shock; on closer reflection, this final knowledge proves to be anticlimactic, for one realizes that the story is about deeper ironies. What was taken to be real is found to be false. What looked rich on the outside is actually very poor. Yet Madame Loisel, who has looked poor on the outside, turns out to be genuine inside. “The Necklace” is a classic example of the tight ironic structure of the short story in which the unified tone dominates every single word.

Summary

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

A young, pretty woman from a family of clerks marries a petty clerk in the office of the Board of Education in Paris. She feels keenly the...

(The entire section is 409 words.)

Summary

(Short Stories for Students)

‘‘The Necklace’’ begins with a description of Madame Mathilde Loisel. Though she is ‘‘pretty and charming,’’ she and her...

(The entire section is 348 words.)