Professor Sheryl Smith
2 December 2014
"The Necklace" is a short story by Guy De Maupassant, first published on February 17, 1884 in the French newspaper Le Gaulois. Maupassant was a student of the great French author Flaubert, who was a founding figure of "Realism” as a literary genre. Realism meant writing about real-seeming situations in a realistic way. Maupassant believed that a role of the writer was to entertain, and to make readers think deeply about hidden meanings of events. He relied on his own life experiences. He served in the Franco-Prussian War and witnessed first-hand the horrors of war and its’ aftermath. He stresses its’ pointlessness, and describes the suffering of innocent victims, unwilling participants in the conflict, whose lives are changed forever as a result of it. He was also a gifted observer of people and their everyday lives, skilfully connecting small, daily events with his characters and reveals the hidden side of human nature.
In general, realism in art and literature refers to the attempt to represent familiar and everyday people and situations in an accurate and idealized manner. More specifically, the term “realism” refers to a literary and artistic movement of the late 18oo’s and early 1900’s. The "average" person meant a middle-class person, and particularly the bored, unhappy middle-class person who longs to live the more exciting life of the rich and famous.
Mathilde Loisel, the main character of "The Necklace," is a 19th century French version of the “average” housewife. She lives in the world of the Parisian lower middle class of French society where ambition, materialism, greed, and petty meanness are the main dynamic. Because she's a woman in a man's world, she has almost no control over her life. She finds herself married to a husband she doesn't care for, and cooped up in a house she despises. What she wants more than anything else is to be desirable to other men. And what's particularly irritating is that she has all the "womanly virtues" she needs in order to be desirable. She's charming, graceful, and beautiful. She's just doesn't have the necessary wealth. She longs for deliverance that only money can buy. Living modestly with her husband before the ball, Madame Loisel believes she is suffering a terrible injustice by having few luxuries. In fact, she does not experience the reality of poverty until she and her husband go into debt to pay off the necklace. The necklace itself represents the theme of appearances versus reality. The necklace makes her appear to be rich, but she is not rich in reality.
When it all comes down to it, Mathilde is a 19th century material girl. The most obvious thing she wants out of life is expensive material possessions. She is attracted to the rich life which is glamorous, beautiful, exciting, fine, and unlike the dingy apartment in which she lives. The glamorous life has a certain kind of magical allure to it. A lot of the objects Mathilde desires are magical, like the "tapestries peopling the walls with ancient figures and with strange birds in a fairy-like forest." For Mathilde, being wealthy amounts to living in a fairy tale which is what she wants; being middle class is boring.
Mr. Loisel goes out and works, and gets to go out on hunting expeditions with his buddies, while she has to stay in the house all day. He's happy with what he has, while she always wants more. He seems to care a great deal for her, while she almost never displays any signs of affection for him. When her husband brings her the invitation all she can think about is the dress she wants. When she gets the dress, all she can think about is the jewels she doesn't have. And when she visits Mme. Forestier, she's not really satisfied with the jewelry until she sees the diamond necklace. She is always dissatisfied.
Mathilde is greedy, but material things aren't the only things she wants. She wants to be desired by rich, attractive,…